The Death of a Weekly Newspaper, through a Cadet Journalist’s Fingers. Part 3


The alarm sent painful shudders through my cold afflicted limbs at 7am Thursday morning.  I’d noticed a tickle in that spot where my nasal passage and throat join up, the afternoon before.  And after a terrible night’s sleep which went like this: doonah on the bed with the windows open (too hot); naked under a sheet with the windows closed (too cold); oh shit I’m definitely starting to feel sick (about 3am); damn it I need to go to the toilet (about 5am); and shit no I’m not going surfing because I feel like shit and have barely slept (6am alarm).  I dragged myself out of bed, chatted with my housemate who had returned from good waves – just my luck – and went through the routine of the morning.  The news meeting was a chore, least of all because I’d come close to completely losing my employment relevance through the jettison of the Mail, and most of all because I felt close to death.  But my task for the day was to submit three entertainment stories, write up a ‘Six things to do this weekend’ section, and put a couple of stories through for online.  If anything it would distract me from my sickness.

This 19 year old Swiss young lady’s short, red dress had come about because of conversation.  Let me think how, while fighting away the image of those beautiful legs. . . .  Oh, yes, her friend, and her no less, had recently agreed it was morally reprehensible to wear skimpy clothing.  Hypocrisy: it’s a turn-on.  In the interests of avoiding placing a hand on one of her legs – because I suspected it would attract a drink in my face from her, her friend, or both – I decided to go outside for a cigarette.  ‘Do either of you smoke?’ I asked, hoping for some alone time with the late-teen hopefully smoker.

‘No,’ they replied in unison.

‘I thought all Europeans smoked.’

This attracted no response from them so I forced my way outside, through the criminally-negligently overcrowded bar.  It was well timed, because when we’d got there we didn’t have to pay, but when I walked outside for a smoke it was time to pay, and the door-dude gave me an ‘I’ve paid’ stamp before I exited.  The luck wasn’t dished out to my partner in crime.  Plus, a little drunk, I was checking out Facebook on my mobile while standing on the road when one of the door-dudes suggested I get back on the footpath because cars tended to take the corner pretty fast.  Which they certainly were.  Also, when I re-entered, some drunken fool was pleading with a door-dude to permit him entry.  Which was not forthcoming.  I sauntered past him while displaying the stamp on my wrist, and a contented smirk on my face.

Another taste of what's to come, because I don't have any other relevant photos which aren't too revelatory, and this is my photo which I reckon is awesome.

I didn’t know who this guy was.  I did know his name and his profession, but suffice to say, here, he was a famous Australian entertainer who specialised in arrogance, basically.  I had some information about all the amazing things he’d done that frankly didn’t get so much as a tingle downstairs from me.  I really didn’t want to call him, but the information wasn’t in the form of quotes from him, and looked more like a biography copied and pasted from his website.  So ‘fuck it’ I thought, picked up the phone and dialled his mobile.  Keep in mind I was both sick and sleep-deprived at the time.  I began after he answered – I really wanted voicemail – by saying something like ‘I’ve got plenty of information about you but I’m wary of quoting you on it because it would sound a little . . . (searching for an appropriate word) . . . wanky’.  First mistake.  It was about this point he started calling me – with not the slightest attempt to hide his contempt – ‘Coleeeeeeeeeen’ in a feigned English accent.  This was because he seemed offended by the fact I’d not done any research on him.  Which I must admit is a journalistic faux pas.  I tried to tell him, diplomatically, I didn’t really give a shit about all the incredible things he’d done in his 30 year career, and was more interested in his upcoming local performance.  But I simply wasn’t articulate enough, and in any event couldn’t get the relevant things he was saying on to my notepad fast enough because my illness was keeping my brain from communicating with my fingers.  This further annoyed him, and after about five minutes of this madness he said ‘I’ve got to go’.  I hung up the phone and thought, sweet, now I’ll just quote him on the information I’ve already got, and what I managed to glean from our conversation.  No, that was a sub-conscious thought.  What I was really fantasising about doing was crawling under my desk with a pillow and passing out.

Just like with the original Cute and Cute and Plump, conversation with their sequels degenerated into awkward silence and looking out the window, hoping something interesting would happen out there.  He, as a last-ditch attempt at stimulating good humour in these girls, showed Cute and Plump 2 the video of him being interviewed by Channel 10 news: http://ten.com.au/news.htm?movideo_m=148785.  She responded ‘Why do you do drugs?’  That’s not the bloody point!  I thought.  From this point on he’d decided these girls needed to scurry back to their boring, perfect arsehole of Germany wonderland (Switzerland for those with memory problems).  And after hearing about the last-ditch attempt later – I didn’t notice at the time because I was busy using my own methods to try and get a rise out of Cute 2 – I agreed.  We both walked outside for a cigarette this time, and the girls walked past us and across the road to their hostel, I assumed.  Presently, he started lecturing me from the ‘I’m the last word on chatting up girls’ point-of-view he occasionally adopts while drunk.  And in an effort to avoid an argument I quickly announced I was going back in for one last drink.  We both had one then left.  In a fitting climax to the night, a brawl started up while we were leaning against the support-beams of a kebab shop’s verandah, while munching on the shop’s slop.  It was awesome.  Not that I encourage violence, mind you, I just think if idiots want to punch more already lacking brain cells out of each others’ heads for my incidental enjoyment, so be it.  It started when a group of guys walked into another group of guys down the road a bit.  Inaudible shouting resulted, then a few wildly thrown punches, and then the whole damn group of them spilled on to the road in an orgy of C words and missed head shots.  Every, single, time the punch-on threatened to die down this skinny little bastard would fire it up again by throwing a random punch at some guy.  It ended about the time I gulped down the last of my processed lamb, and the cops showed up five minutes later, after everyone’d gone, of course.

‘NEWSPAPERS are known as society’s mirrors.  Through them one and all can witness everything pleasant, horrifying, delightful and depressing about their community, as recorded by a member of their community, through voices from their community.  The Gold Coast Mail’s final edition could then be viewed as a positive: its readers no longer feel a need to reflect through it.  Or it could be viewed as a negative: its readers no longer feel an obligation to reflect through it.  Nevertheless, its readers whether loyal or casual should be reassured their community is vibrant, complex, and sometimes troubled, yes, but equally capable of capturing silver linings and supporting those within it.  Not to mention celebrating things for which it is, and should be, proud.’  This, probably not verbatim, was my obituary on page 5 of the Mail’s final edition.  And the boss did his, plus the six different front pages scanned in.  And it was filled as usual but not again – for now – with news about the southern Gold Coast.  So besides slapping together ‘last minute Christmas shopping stores’ opening hours’ and ‘Cooly cop shop understaffed’ stories for online, I had one last task for the day.  The week before was my one year anniversary with the Tweed Newspaper Company, and on the Friday I in the boss’s office said I would like to speak to him about the ‘G’ word.  Grading (becoming a proper journalist, as if I wasn’t basically but not officially one already, for God’s sake).  He wouldn’t be able to get to it until January, he said, and I asked him if there was anything I could do in the meantime.  He said what I knew he’d say: a dot point proposal as to why I should be graded.  So I spent Thursday afternoon printing out stories for which I’d taken my own photos (multi-skilling is sought after in this world of corporations wanting people to be good at everything, and do everything, for minimal pay), one of the front page Daily stories I was proud of, and tightening up the dot points I’d started a month ago.  I was momentarily a little horrified by how many photos I’d had to take for my own bloody stories, when considering the amount of driving and brain power required to do so.  But then I stapled it together.  Five o’clock rolled around, I went into the boss’s office, handed him the proposal, suggested he’d be able to fill in any gaps in it, wished him a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year which he returned with a hand-shake, and left the building.  Christmas’s penultimate (look it up) day was, for me, a day off, thanks to what you’ll read about in the next blog post.  Merry Christmas, in the meantime. . . .

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