Friday: “The best (and worst) job in the world”

Just days ago, one of journalism’s most senior citizens hit me with a confronting picture of the media. There was great pessimism in the man’s well-rehearsed ten-minute rant, yet there was some silver lining to this fuming cloud.

With an air of nostalgia, he recounted the good old days, painting me a fascinating comparison.

“Back when I started, there were forty reasons why this was the best job in the world.”

“Today, there are only maybe five reasons.”

“But it still is the best job… five times better than any other job out there.”

They probably weren’t the words he wanted me to remember. But perhaps they will remain with me the longest.

The new look lineup of Eddie's Hot Breakfast team

For all journalism’s triumphs, it can be at times be a brutal, boring, and baneful profession. Such a thought crossed my mind at 7am, when Eddie McGuire and the Hot Breakfast crew awoke me for my earliest morning of the holidays. One could say that Eddie and his comrades have the most enviable job in radio. One could also lament that no job is worth a 4.30 start.

Two hours later, I was braving the cold at Princes Park, waiting for Carlton coach Brett Ratten to emerge out of the thick fog. When he did appear, my job didn’t become any easier. I’ve always assumed that ‘boom operator’ was an easy gig. This morning’s press spot taught me otherwise; after ten minutes of outstretched statue imitation, my arm was aching like nothing else. It turned out that the effort was wasted anyway; not only did the 6pm news show little footage of the Ratten interview, but only caught the corner of my Sportal placard.

For the next four hours, I watched my screensaver bounce around. Given the workload of some days (one journo humbled me with his record of 22 articles in a single shift) one may welcome a quiet stretch with utmost appreciation. When you’re a willing intern, though, you thrive on a continuous flow of work. There are only so many hours one can spend with an eye on the perplexing world of Twitter.

As it turned out, I wasn’t watching Twitter anywhere near enough. Unbeknownst to me a massive news story was breaking.

At roughly 1500 hours, the AFL tweeted about an upcoming press conference. It was to do with gambling in football, a hackneyed issue I have little patience for. I thus disregarded the tweet, and bided my time by chomping on an apple.

As I munched away at my juicy apple, a few murmurs crept around the office. There was apparently a great deal of interest in this gambling story. I put down my afternoon tea, wiped my hands, and tapped away at the keyboard.

For the next ten minutes, the entire office was stalking the Twitter feed, watching as the Herald Sun’s Mark Robinson and Jon Ralph broke one of the year’s biggest sports stories. Magpie defender Heath Shaw had allegedly placed bets on his captain Nick Maxwell to kick the first goal in their Round 9 clash against Adelaide. Ralph claimed that the AFL would ban Shaw for eight weeks (a convenient figure given that finals were… guess what, eight weeks away…), and that he wasn’t the only suspect in this trial.

As you may have expected, I was outraged. I had just traded Shaw into my Dream team the night before!

That’s when one of the writers asked me to go for a stroll.

“Kevin, can you go over to AFL House for the press conference.”

Without hesitation, I jumped on the opportunity. With the Sportal desk microphone in hand, I paced down the street to find the who’s who of sports journalism congregating in the Mike Sheahan Press Room. While my role was to simply click  the record button on Sportal’s audio device, it was overwhelming to be present at AFL House during such a pivotal moment.

In years to come, when people ask one another “Where were you when operations manager Adrian Anderson revealed that Nick Maxwell was being fined for revealing confidential gambling-related data to family members?” I will proudly say “Five metres away from Anderson.”

I returned to the office to find everybody with the heads down and bums up. Nobody was interested in my return; they all needed to get this story out as quick as possible… as I’m sure fourteen other organisations would have been doing across the city.

Within minutes another press conference was called, this time at Collingwood’s home base at the Westpac Centre. The journalist assigned to the conference had already made his departure, but I didn’t let that stop me. With enough time running on the clock, I jumped on the city circle tram like a man on a mission. The only problem was I didn’t know how to get there.

Misled by the city circle tram driver, I switched onto the 75 Vermont-bound tram. This route took me nowhere near Collingwood’s base. Instead I found myself on Wellington Parade, on the wrong side of the MCG.

I wasn’t sure what time the conference was set to start, but I didn’t let that triviality bother me. Here was my chance to act like a true journo, and literally race across the city in search of that story. A one kilometre disorientated sprint somehow took me the door of the Westpac Centre.

Having only missed a few minutes I crept my way in, finding myself a spot beside the big shots of the industry. I must have been the only person in the room without a pen or paper – and certainly the only person to be wearing a Demons scarf – but few seemed to notice. After all, the focus was on Shaw and Maxwell, the star duo apologising for their stupidity and selfishness.

The main event, however, took stage beside the pair. Larger than life, and literally red-faced, sat my morning alarm – Eddie McGuire himself. Apparently Eddie does some Presidenty stuff on the side of radio. Who’d have thought?

As the press conference came to a close, the media dispersed as microphones and cables were tossed around. My focus, though, was more directed at the duo beside me, where The Age writer Caroline Wilson shared some stern words with my main man Eddie.

Every bone in my body wanted to stand next to them, to catch the latest scoop, or throw my name into their vocabulary. But I thought better of it. While my role this week was to gain experience and develop contacts; the last thing I wanted to do was annoy the two biggest names in the football media.

They already have the best jobs in the world. I don’t think they need me to boost their ego.

Articles written on Friday 15 July, 2011

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