I’d been consciously trying to stave off the dreaded ‘lurgy’ for about a week or so but unfortunately decided to succumb to its incapacitating ways a bit sooner (the flight in was Virgin’s equivalent of slamming a hammer repeatedly into my sinuses for an hour and a half). And it was feeling like this that I can attribute my deflated and unpromising frame of mind when I arrived at the Daily Mercury Monday morning.
I rocked up at about 7.45am (4.40am Oliver Time Difference) where I stand around yawning with a gormless look on my face for 10 minutes before I’m greeted by the editor Jennifer Pomfrett, an immensely busy but friendly lady who’s more than happy to show me the rounds and introduce me to the newsroom.
There’s Tom, Fallon, Melissa, Janessa, Grier, Kate and Mark Sleeman the deputy-editor (that man with the driest wit this side of Rockhampton).
The news room is essentially a long narrow stretch inhabited by around 60 computers and their accompanied users. Along the sides hedge the offices of the managers and higher-ups.
I sit down at the clean space in front of me where Mark gives me the day’s paper and tells me to flick through and read before the 8:30am news conference which happens almost immediately.
We all sit down in front of a whiteboard which has been partitioned into the 13 pages and that require our undivided attention for the next half hour.
Mark reads out local events that are newsworthy whilst someone scribes it all down, noting which ones will be allocated to certain pages.
Now, I had landed in Mackay the uneducated assumption that I would establish myself as the intern with unparalleled enthusiasm, I figured if I asserted myself and did work even when none was given to me, I would ultimately reap the dividends with a glee not seen since the Emperor tortured Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi.
With echoes of Desley’s “you don’t want to be stuck doing advertorials for two weeks” still resounding in my ears, I sat down to my first advertorial which I frantically typed up thinking that if I could get past this (what I thought to be) “intern testing mechanism” I’d be home free, covering local politics and industry in no time.
And as persistence can attest to, I managed to accrue a few by-lines week’s end. Jennifer had me check out local pubs and restaurants to write something on the competitive lunch specials that were being advertised, which was great because it got me a chance to chat to the photographers and get myself acquainted with their methods.
I also interviewed the director of ‘sailors with disABILITIES’ David Pescud, an astonishing character who’s won Sydney to Hobart twice. He travels up and down the eastern seaboard, stopping off along the way to work with those who have disabilities, aiming to change people’s preconceptions about the disabled community by getting them involved with some straight edge aquatic activities.
I’ve learnt a lot this week; mainly that when the editor tells you the length to be ‘200’, she means lines. Not words.
Following David’s advice, I made myself known to the sub-editor who responded well when I asked politely to not to hold back in constructive criticism.
“I was going to do that anyway,” she responded, unsmilingly.
Also, and something that’s interested me quite a bit, the Daily Mercury has taken and seemingly annexed their own particular writing style.
For instance Janessa, the lovely young girl who has helped me throughout the week told me that here; it was paramount to inject your own writing style into your articles. Oh yes, forget about the reverse pyramid here my friend.
“The reverse pyramid counts for nothing,” she said.
To be told this on the first day, completely upended my confidence and replaced it with acute vulnerability. That style was what I was holding on to, it’s what I felt comfortable doing.
Yeah, I’m not a fan of ‘change’.
But, I managed to mould my abilities to the tasks handed out and now I feel much better about how I handle myself in the newsroom.
I’m still acclimatising myself to the 7.30-5pm working hours but so far it’s been great, a little daunting and disheartening at first but overall I think the next week should work in my favour.
Tune in next time for more wacky and self-serving adventures!