The Death of a Weekly Newspaper, through a Cadet Journalist’s Fingers. Part 4


I woke about 5.30am, and the car was surrounded by police.  We’d done something horrible, somewhere in the memory gaps of last night’s bender.  But what?  We weren’t animals, we were good men, if reckless.  There was no way we’d done what they were here to haul us into the merciless maw of the judicial system over.  I was ready to give myself up, so looked through the foggy windows upon the outside world.  There was no-one, except some fellow creature of the morning walking past.  I relaxed, then thought we’d been given a ticket.  But no, not that either.  No consequences?  I thought.  Amazing.  I was convinced they were forthcoming in the form of Byron’s famously pin-headed and uncompassionate parking fascists, however.  So I set about exiting the car, which wasn’t easy as my compadre had slept all 6-feet of himself across the two front seats, with his legs on the right-hand-side.  He’d lowered the hand brake for extra limited comfort.  I had to move the driver’s seat forward and open the door to escape.  This elicited while still sleeping moans from him, but I couldn’t give less of a shit under the circumstances.  Neither of us wanted a ticket, and he could least afford it.  I still, thank the good Lord, had some water left in a bottle in the rear of the car, and swilled it greedily.  ‘What’re ya doin’ man?’ he mumbled from the front of the car.

I explained my fear of the parking cop and his pecuniary punishments.

‘You’re paranoid.’

Perhaps, but we’d stretched our luck too far, not that we got very lucky the previous night.  He pointed that out too.  So what to do?  I had not massively overindulged in lady liquor but there was every chance some of her still lingered in my veins.  She’s a clingy vixen.  Not leaving in a hurry was the answer, so we got a feed and returned to Byron’s top pub beach break where we spotted the lone longboarder (see Part 1) cruising impossibly quick waves.  There was nothing for it: I had to start work at 9am, and we had no way of knowing I’d be putting in some hours on the way (see below photo).  I bit the bullet, and it did not thank Christ bite back. Except I did drive off with the cheap camping chair still underneath the car.

Talk about stumbling over a story. . . .

Triple j was reporting, not even during the hourly news, some bozo was driving down from the Gold Coast to Byron and had told them there was a truck fire in progress.  Jesus!  I thought. A truck fire.  I’m working today and this could be a big story.  Then I relaxed, lit a cigarette, and realised it was probably in Coomera, or Nerang, where dickheads doing dumb shit like shooting people and setting fire to things was a common occurrence and, regardless, of no relevance to the Daily News (which covers the Tweed-southern Gold Coast areas). So I continued listening to the music, and threaded the car through green, forested hills straddling what had just become the Tweed Shire.  Which was about the time we saw smoke, and I tensed up again.  Some guy, possibly the truck driver, was flagging down traffic in the middle of the two-lane, 110km per hour zone, so I stopped the car.  ‘There’s a truck on fire up ahead,’ he said, ‘and we’re closing the highway.  Just cut across the median strip and head back south to the coast road.’

I couldn’t let it slip away.  ‘Man, I work for the Daily News.  Can we get photos?’

‘Not at this stage,’ and he waved us to his left.

Fuck!  I thought, took one last look at the northbound lanes’ emergency lane, considered parking there and walking up with my smart phone, then thought better of it and took off rather recklessly across the median strip and headed back south.  There was a trump card: if we could get to the vantage point of an overpass I knew was up ahead we’d be golden.  Lo, and behold, the Tweed Valley Way we’d been detoured on to crossed over the Pacific Hwy right where the northbound truck had parked, burst into fucking flames, burned to a husk and now lay smouldering.  We pulled over on the western-side.  It was time to think, as smoke caressed around the overpass bridge and even sifted through it in some areas, as a highway cop had parked in front of us, on the other side of the road.  I took one photo of the smoke heading for the sky with my phone (see Part 3).  I thought about crossing the bridge and approaching the photo from the east;  I thought about leaning over the edge of the road and approaching the photo from the west;  I thought about how toxic the smoke around the bridge was; I thought about a lot of things.  While I was busy thinking, he had run with my second thought, and got the shot.  Oh yes!  We got back into the car and continued on down the coast road into the shire, feeling like heroes.  Well, I did, because now I had the painful yet privileged task of telling people if their gift from Aunt Flo had not arrived yet, the above image may have been the reason why.  It had once been an Australia Post truck, on a trip north the week before Christmas, no less.

And I could go through the events of the day, but I don’t like dribbling on about work to people no matter how entertaining it may have been, so here in order of achievement (the first was actually mostly done on Saturday, slave that I am) are the stories I did while quite hungover and sleep deprived.  Yet contented in the fact the fruit of productivity can sometimes be borne from the soil of irresponsibility:

http://www.mydailynews.com.au/story/2011/12/18/residents-rally-against-police-hq/

http://www.mydailynews.com.au/story/2011/12/18/love-still-strong-after-50-years/

http://www.mydailynews.com.au/story/2011/12/18/paddle-out-honours-sam/

http://www.mydailynews.com.au/photos/galleries/paddle-out-for-sam/#id=paddle-out-for-sam&num=1

http://www.mydailynews.com.au/story/2011/12/18/truck-fire-pacific-hwy/

http://www.mydailynews.com.au/photos/galleries/christmas-gifts-destroyed-truck-fire/#id=christmas-gifts-destroyed-truck-fire&num=4

And please note I know it seems strange I put the truck fire last, in order of achievement, but sometimes even the smallest stories can take the longest to achieve depending on their seriousness and who needs to be spoken with.  In closing, do not fear journalists; we’re like the Reaper: maligned, but necessary, empathetic and not going anywhere despite the freedom of speech stifling conservatism this country seems to be developing.

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