April 2nd, 2022Just sayin’…
IT’S not always easy being green or a journalist. (Nod to Kermit there.)
Now and again we get asked to investigate something or someone. Generally we don’t because we don’t have the money or time for lengthy investigations, or it’s just a grudge match and we don’t want to get involved in the argy-bargy.
But generally speaking we more often get asked to “look into things” which is fine but not as simple as you would imagine. Not as simple as the old days anyway.
Back when I was a younger, more enthusiastic journo, you could go straight to the top cop at your local station and get the latest on what the crims were up to. They always had time for a bit of a natter and a cuppa. I even remember being asked along to a marijuana bonfire at one seaside station. I would say it was a memorable event but I don’t remember much except for arriving. I may have even got a lift home in the back of a divvy van. Anyone remember that chant or is my age showing?
Nowadays, like most government departments, it’s all done through media liasion and everyone is pretty much told never to talk to a journalist.
Same with councils. I know, because I have been told by councillors that they are not allowed to talk to journos. Some of them break ranks on that but most stay the course. And then there is the Councillor Code of Conduct which means even if they don’t agree with a council decision, let’s say the selling of The Rex or jettisoning aged care services, they can’t say anything. They have to support that decision – even if they think it’s a load of rubbish. I don’t know about you but many of this latest cohort at Hepburn Shire Council were voted in on transparency and communication. I think if people knew they would stick to what basically amounts to a gag order, they would have struggled to find the numbers.
Then there is the next step up, state government. I called one department recently with a bit of a query only to hear the voice message of the PR staffer. It went like this: “If I don’t know your number I won’t pick up the phone, text me.” And that was it. Nothing polite, just straight to the point. A millenial if ever I heard one, refusing to pick up the phone unless a name showed up as well. No wonder they don’t like landlines – I can’t imagine the inner turmoil of listening to a phone ring and having no idea who is on the other end. What happened to spontenaity? It could be the love of your life or the bloke from Tattslotto calling to say you’ve won the jackpot.
That bloke did call me once when I was working on a paper in the suburbs of Melbourne. I nearly fell off my chair as he said his name and specifically asked for me. Sadly my joy was short-lived. He also freelanced in public relations, so was just calling to let me know a press release was on its way. Oh well.
Talking of press releases, I received one yesterday from the newly formed Grampians Health. It was titled “rules of engagement for media” and firmly stated that the media team worked only on weekdays from 8.30am to 5pm and “all enquiries must be directed to email@example.com – Media are not to contact Grampians Health staff directly; this will not speed up the process.”
Whoa, that’s being told. Bad luck if something happens on the weekend. So, as a journo, your feathers are already a little ruffled but then they ask that at the end of any story about them you add a 38-word footnote about their “united health service”. I did email back asking if it was a joke but apparently not.
Anyway, here’s my footnote. This is our 250th edition and unless that Lotto bloke calls back we’ll be here for edition 251. No, it’s not always easy but I do love being a journo in this community. Just saying’…