The competition to be one of the hundred stories published each day is intense. They are all such great writers. To even get a job they were the finest scholars with marks in the top 5%. Academic marks are valued here. An old sailing coach with a spotty academic record is like a fish out of water. The guy in the cubicle behind me was one of the journo’s who wrote the “Underbelly” series, so I was under no illusions as to my raw, simple prose’s ranking. The subs were tearing my stuff up and re-writing it root and branch, or just “spiking” it altogether. They improved my work. Ian Munro, the opinion editor, took me aside and showed me the huge style faults, and every other fault there was in a calm and friendly manner, it was hard to hear to say the least. The entertainment editor was more impatient and said I needed to rewrite my Annie and cooking stories with more colour for the Sunday paper where he had space to fill.
My last day was very busy and exciting.
The state editor came over to my desk minutes after I arrived with two jobs and said he was publishing my “flag story” online.
It was a timely story with the footy finals in full swing, but the paper had been full all week.
see it here – http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/pies-flag-fight-fires-up-footy-fan-20110923-1ko1v.html
There was a bit of a buzz as it was the lead (photo) story on the front page of the website most of the day and the other journo’s were starting to look at me funny (with surprise) as the hits increased. They added a poll too which had thousands of votes. Very exciting.
Then John also paid me a visit as he was in town to meet The Age’s HR Manager.
I had little time to follow the flag story’s hits online. I had two, then three jobs given to me. One was to write up a small “essentials for going to the Royal Melbourne Show” list. The second was a real hard news story that would probably by published on Saturday.
The Melbourne City Council’s meeting set for Tuesday had seven out of eight items listed as “confidential” meaning the public or press were not permitted to observe or be allowed to even know what these items for discussion were, let alone listen to the debate. The state editor had written a piece on the nature of this institution early this year– he was on the City beat. He gave me three numbers and let me loose on it. I loved doing this story. This is why I decided to do the course. It took me all day and we had an early deadline because it was Friday too.
I had some juicy quotes from one of the councillors who shot himself in the foot badly saying “It is not for the rate-payers or voters to know, ” I was amazed it was so easy to get a quote like that.
I spoke with several councillors and a past mayor whose quotes we led with. I had a quote from the only greens councillor who said “I strongly believe there needs to be a review of the voting system,” but it did not make the final cut. Unlike the BCC the Melbourne City Council only covers the CBD and a few close inner areas. Mostly businesses , but with a fast growing proportion of residents who now lived right in the CBD in apartment buildings seemingly mushrooming overnight as Melbourne grows at break-neck speed. Residents only get one vote in elections, businesses “or entities” get two. There are no wards, so its a bit like the federal senate. Very different to the more representative and “visible” Brisbane City Council.
The PR guy at the council sounded like he was under pressure all day. Then he rang and said the mayor would call me at 5pm. Robert Doyle had been a Liberal state opposition leader for years before he was Lord Mayor so he was a pro. He knew how to handle the media. He probably knew the deadline was around 5.30pm on a Friday.
I spoke to him for about twenty minutes. I put in some balancing quotes of his at the end. This story still has legs.
The story got up in the Sat Age, though I wish I had more time to spend on it. If you want to see it.
It was filed under pressure at the last moment before the deadline. Then I passed on two other stories that could run next week. It all finished in a blur with the day editor leaving before I could get a comment on my sheet.
Today the sub called me about another story which may run tomorrow.