08 July 2012

Turning the page...

So, a new financial year and a new career, the highlight of which occurred, ironically, on Sunday 1 July.  Day One.  I spent three days on the Gold Coast last weekend for the Gold Coast Marathon weekend.  I go every year with my fabulous running group, Intraining.  In addition, I had asked the editor at ABC News Online if I could cover the event.  He amazingly said YES and suggested a "colour piece".  I armed myself with Spud's fairly basic SLR camera, my iPad and my notebook and headed off into the sunrise.  After lining up my First Ever Media Pass (!) I arranged to be at two press conferences on Friday afternoon and also arranged interviews with a couple of people I'd heard about through the organisers of the event.  The Elite Athlete press conference (my first) was my introduction to the world of sports journalism, with hordes of gigantic zoom lenses slung across journo bodies.  It was a little .... er.... intimidating.  I stayed on after that for the Indigenous Marathon Project presser and met some of the runners, who were all very friendly, if not a bit shy.  Interestingly, one of the girls is from Maningrida, Grace, and she pointed out some "locals" who had flown down to run (separately from the IMP group).  I went over and started chatting to them because, of course, my friend Swellgal has been working up there for five years or so and would know of them.  Well, as it turned out, this group had their own amazingly interesting running story.  They were a great bunch of people, working together and running together in rather trying conditions.  One of three, Gerard, has a blog: www.ironmanlegend.blogspot.com which he had just started about the day before I met him.  This guy knows A LOT about running.  This is them below, after they finished their various runs.
Exactly as were have been taught in journalism school, sometimes the best story is not the one standing right in front of you (the Indigenous Marathon Project) but the one you see when you least expect to (the Maningrida runners).  I am sure I will write about them some more in the future.  Saturday morning saw me run faster than I have ever run before.  I had been hoping to break 50min for the 10km,  my previous personal best having been 50:09.  So, I was really wired and ready to go and I DID IT!  I finished in 48:37.  It was The Very, Very Hardest Physical Thing I have ever done. I have never pushed myself so much. Running in the finish chute, I thought I would cark it.  The official (and hideous) photos are the evidence of my distress.  However, as soon as it was over, I was overjoyed.... of course.
Secondary to running so well, the highlight of my weekend was meeting the people I did and having the experiences I had while composing my story for the ABC.  It really required a lot of work and focus.  Meeting people, ensuring I got accurate information, fact-checking, photographing, writing the story and then trying to send it when the Media Centre had run out of WiFi...  I learned SO MUCH in those three days.  I got a really good finish line photo of the winner of the marathon but not without a battle!  I had a really great spot, right in the centre, until all these bossy, aggressive "snappers and shooters" with HUGE lenses elbowed in on me.  Luckily I had befriended an SES volunteer and he let me climb up onto the camera stand where I had a perfect view.
You can probably tell already, can't you, that I have Major Zoom Envy?  It wasn't until I was driving home that I heard from a friend that my story had been published on the front page of ABC News Online.  As you can probably imagine, I was extremely excited.  And I was trying to drive!!  I just couldn't believe it. I really couldn't.  It was absolutely the most fantastic thing that has happened to me so far in my journalism career.   I mean... the ABC!  That's not chicken feed you know!  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-07-01/diverse-bunch-flocks-to-gold-coast-marathon/4103252
After recovering from that thrill, Monday marked the first day of a one-week internship at the Murdoch-owned 'The Courier Mail' newspaper. I was to be working in the Online newsroom but it actually all seems to be blended together really.  I didn't note a real differentiation.  It was quite impossible to get an idea of how the newsroom works there in just one week.  However, day one and this was my desk:
A promotion to Website Editor on my first day!  I pitched a story idea on Monday and went out with a photographer to interview Rob de Castella and Lee Troop, two of Australia's most incredible and successful marathon runners and Olympians. It was a great story, I thought, though I realise now I wrote too much.  It didn't get used.  Neither did my Tuesday yarns.  By Wednesday I was thinking I was in a bit deep and, having nothing in particular to do, headed off to the city on the shuttle and found my own story.  It wasn't too hard to find a story as a major football show-down was on that night and the city was choked with fans.  However, I needed to find a new angle!  I interviewed a couple of people and wrote a few words (by this time I had learned to keep it tight!) but I was despairing of the quality/content until the sub-editor told me I was ON!
Unbeknown to me, the other intern Claudia had been sent to town to cover the donuts story so my yarn just segued nicely with hers.  Hooray, I was starting to get the hang of this gig...
Thursday saw me attend the Supreme Court for the sentencing of a notorious triple-murderer.  It was a media scrum, which was an eye-opener in itself, but it was also extremely harrowing listening to the victim impact statements and examples of other gruesome murders used to illustrate prior sentences.  By the time I got home that evening, I was up for a BIG glass of red wine.  I don't actually know how a judge can stay "normal" if their career involves listening to sordid tales of savage cruelty all day.
Found this via Facebook and loved it.  It helped me face Friday...
After Thursday, I wondered what was in store for Friday and soon discovered, as I set off with a photographer to visit a potential crime suspect.  The idea was to try and get a statement from that person as to whether they had hired a lawyer and if so, possibly get a name. Ha!  I think they sent me along because they knew this bloke was never going to talk - and they were right.  I did learn however that one must always visit the "Ladies" before going out on a hunting mission and always carry a snack and some water in your handbag when travelling with an enthusiastic photographer.  I wrote a yarn, which was awkward because there was nothing newsworthy about what we were doing at all, but I felt I should provide something after three hours in the shrubbery.  Trying to write about nothing was a very good exercise however, reminding me that it wasn't about what I "thought" but about what I was actually seeing and hearing (ie nothing).  After learning the other intern had had another story published (about fashion week) I really felt down (read: D.I.V.A) thinking I was obviously totally crap at being a journalist.  Yada yada yada.  Spud soon sorted me out.  The editor at the Courier even told me it is quite normal for journos not to get a story published for up to three weeks!  So, I need to get over myself and ....

Last night I met up with my journalism mentor, Ernie, who was brutally honest with me about my ABC story, telling me I'd buried the lead and suggesting that the ABC only left it on the front page of the website for four days because they are too busy to remove it and they needed something to fill a hole.  YIKES!  I offered him my stainless steel filleting knife and asked him if he'd like to borrow that to really drive home the message.  I know, of course, that what he says is true but I'd been holding on to the ABC story as my proof that I can't be completely awful at journalism and he rather chopped it for me.  He wants me to re-write the ABC story with a different opening par, so that's my homework.  The thing is, I'm glad he was so honest.  I'm not going to learn a thing with someone pandering to me am I?
I've had a HUGE week of journalism.  As the Courier Mail editor said to me, the internship is about finding out if I really want to be a journalist and my answer is a resounding YES but...  I don't want to do stories of only 80 words that involve chasing people down streets.  I want to write people's stories.  Is that still journalism?  It's made me think about the different types of journalism and consider what defines "journalism"?  There are so many commendable journalists out there and so much more for me to learn.  I will just have to be patient, keep reading, keep writing and keep on keeping on! I have learned an enormous amount this week and am just so lucky to have had these opportunities  #luckyme
PS:  found this amazing photo-essay (?) re Marie Colvin this morning on the Vanity Fair website:  http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/08/marie-colvin-passport-photos#slide=1
One thing I can safely say is that Journalism Ain't for Sissies!  Ha.


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