Since becoming the editor of a regional newspaper in a remote location, many hundreds of kilometres away from the metropolitan, I have found myself oddly at the centre of a hub of activity.
It’s very different to my time in the wilderness of freelance journalism in a city.
Previous to this job, I conducted most of interviews via the phone or internet from my kitchen table, usually in nothing but my underwear, a bottom feeder, jostling for contracts from magazine editors and digging around for leads on juicy stories.
Now, as an editor of a paper, I am constantly hunting for the new front page story, its like a drug, nothing else matters, then as some as the front page to the page page is laid out for the printer, there’s just enough time for a post-coital cuppa joe and a ‘arhhh’ of self satisfaction… But then it starts again, the chase – the next front page.
I’m acutely aware of position of influence I have in this small community spread over an immense area on Australia’s only border with another country. People approach me to write stories far more than I need to look for them. I am even courted by ‘Big’ papers like the Australian and TV channels who want to pry on-the-ground info out of me…
I frequently have breakfast with a Parish Hall restoration committee, or the Rotary, have a coffee with the Police Inspector, talk with regional indigenous leaders on a first name basis and have candid phone calls with federal politicians. The Mayor leaves messages on my answering machine. A far cry from my previous Hunterseque past.
But just as importantly I need to attend with the local parents and friends evenings, weddings, funerals, birthdays and school sports carnivals.
They have a love-hate relationship with me, everyone has an agenda, no one wants to be crucified by the press and in a small community. I have to walk a tight rope of attending to all these often opposite viewpoints, so I don’t get crucified – literally. The more earnestly I champion one cause, I so often have to champion the opposition to it to avoid appearing biased one way or another – despite what my own political leanings maybe. It’s a far cry from the drones writing for two third’s of the country’s press owned by Murdoch. My boss gives me a pretty free reign on my content and I try to honour that by being impartial as possible.
But I do take delight in following certain protocol of this family owned newspaper group.
“Never use the word honourable in prefacing a politician’s name, they are many things but not honourable,” my boss often says.
He also says I don’t need to wear a suit when dealing with dignitaries, in fact one of my bosses makes a point to wear shorts and thongs for the poli’s but dresses up for the local Elders.
It’s good to see my boss has his priorities worked out, similar to many of the islanders…