On Being A Journalist (Or Attempting To)

“Hi, I’m a journalist from the Fremantle Herald”. My voice echoes down the phone, and my simple statement is met by instant wariness. I can sense it through the hesitant crackle down the other end of the line, and nervous breathing and the clammy palms. Well, I actually have no clue about any of that, but I like to think that I have a good feel for this type of thing.

As soon as you mention the word “journalist”, people freeze up, worried that their name will forever be in print. “No comment” is a common reply that I receive, “You’d be better off speaking with someone else” is another. But I’m sorry, interviewees, I promise I’m not trying to tarnish your name. I’m just attempting to do my job as best I can. I have absolutely no desire to paint you in a bad light, unless, of course, you have something to hide…

I worked on an interesting story this week. A man, let’s call him Bob, rang up the Herald claiming that his bag had been deliberately thrown out by the owner of his hostel. Now, off the bat, this sounds totally implausible. And I grew more sceptical when Bob sent an emotional email after another, demanding justice, accusing the owner of corruption, and saying he would take the matter to court. But my curiosity was raised when it became apparent that the owner was not willing to divulge his side of the story. If he had nothing to hide, then surely he’d happily tell his version of events? After numerous phone calls, texts, and voicemails, I finally managed to arrange a meeting. I loitered around for half an hour like a nervous school girl waiting for a date, anticipating his call confirming a time for the meeting. Then I remembered that my phone goes straight to voicemail, and coupled with the fact that I had absolutely no clue how to use the office phone, things were made rather difficult. I had tried to use the office phone once, something that had resulted in my nearly tripping over the cord (who uses phones with cords now anyways?!), and leaving the poor man waiting for about five minutes as I battled with buttons and tried to figure out how to connect to line two. It really wasn’t difficult, but I do have my ditzy moments sometimes (rather too often, in fact). But safe to say, following this debacle, I was going to stick to my mobile.

Anyway, I digress. I finally met this man man after waiting for him after hours, and the first thing he said was “I can’t comment on this”. Wonderful! He’d brought along one of the receptionists as some sort of back up, but I didn’t buy it.

The following day, I rang up the hostel (again). And guess what? They couldn’t comment either. I decided to investigate the matter further, and went down to the hostel. “Be pushy” I said to myself. I came across a guest, but as soon as I mentioned Bob’s name, a wall went up. “No comment” she said, turning her back. And like the amateur I am, I walked away immediately. So much for being assertive! I have a lot to learn…

But I have been learning some things. I’ve learned that it’s not totally terrifying to talk to MPs on the phone with the whole office listening in; I’ve learned that taking pictures on my shitty phone to be used in the paper isn’t the best idea; I’ve learned that I actually have to pin people down when I question them. But one thing I have not learned is not to be late. I seem to be physically incapable of being on time- perhaps it’s wired into my genome or something. And this proves rather embarrassing when I rock up to meetings with mayors and MPs in my rusty, dented Daewoo, whose headlight is gaffa-taped in. This is made even more embarrassing by the fact that I then can’t get out of the car without either winding down the window and opening the door from the outside, or climbing across to the passenger seat. Of course, if I opt with the former, I then have to wind the window up, and this takes about five minutes. If, on the other hand, I go with the latter, I inevitably get stuck somewhere half between the seats on account of my seat being ridiculously close to the steering wheel as I have rather short legs.

And if I’m late to important meetings with important people, it goes without saying I am late to work everyday. My first day was so promising! I parked with fifteen minutes to spare, but when I tried to get my ticket, the odds were not in my favour. After inserting my card multiple times, I realised that I needed a credit card, not a debit card. So, coins it was. Parking cost $10 for 1-2 hours, and $12 for 2-12 hours. It was a strange system, but I had plenty of coins…or so I thought. $11.90 later, I succeeding in only getting a ticket until 11am. This was a total joke. I ended up spending nearly $24 on parking that day…

Of course, the parking debacle meant that I was now late, and so I legged it the 1km to the Herald.

“Did you cycle into work?” my supervisor said, “you look rather sweaty”.

“Errr, yes of course” I stammered in reply.

It was all going marvellously well.

P.S. I’m still having an absolutely swell time.

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