Fully grounded

Hills Gazette (Kalamunda) - - NEWS -

“DON’T ever call a politi­cian hon­ourable!”, shouted my ed­i­tor Howard Gaskin across the news­room.

It was one of many ‘in­struc­tions’ that got yelled from his of­fice to me, an 18year-old cadet jour­nal­ist learn­ing her craft and try­ing to fig­ure out how to write. Other gems were ‘only an or­ches­tra con­ducts’ and ‘don’t leave a coun­cil meet­ing un­til the last per­son has left, no mat­ter what time it is and make sure you drink with them after­wards – that’s where you get the sto­ries’.

Howard was renowned through­out the jour­nal­ism world as a hard taskmas­ter, but what a solid ground­ing in jour­nal­ism I got. He was right, of course; no-one ever gets a good story from sit­ting at a coun­cil meet­ing or wait­ing for the phone to ring – the good sto­ries al­ways come from net­work­ing and mak­ing con­tacts.

Back in those days it was just me and Howard and I took all of the pho­tos too – black and white with no auto fo­cus. News­pa­pers hadn’t yet hit the dig­i­tal age, so sto­ries were printed into columns and cut and pasted on to A3 pages and pho­tos were made into bro­mides, scaled to the right size and cut and pasted and sent out the back to be plated and printed.

Af­ter a year of my cadet­ship, I was cat­a­pulted into the job as news ed­i­tor at the Hills Gazette’s sis­ter pa­per, the Avon Val­ley Ad­vo­cate. Howard’s phi­los­o­phy was you have to live and merge your­self in the com­mu­nity you re­port for to be able to write in­formed sto­ries, so off to Northam I went, and I stayed for four years.

I didn’t feel young, run­ning a pa­per at 19, with a 16year-old cadet to help me, and we just got stuck in, net­work­ing flat out, writ­ing about ev­ery­thing, cov­er­ing lo­cal coun­cil meet­ings, tak­ing pho­tos at sport­ing matches on week­ends and cham­pi­oning lo­cal causes.

Howard taught me we could al­ways beat the state pa­pers to sto­ries. It was the Avon Val­ley Ad­vo­cate that broke the story a Royal Com­mis­sion would be launched into WA Inc, care of our con­tacts in the lo­cal ALP branch.

Back then, the lo­cal news­pa­per was the go to for all in­for­ma­tion and it’s a sign of the times that we are los­ing these tra­di­tional trea­sures for the less per­sonal on­line ver­sions.

How lucky I was to learn my craft the tra­di­tional way.

It’s a sad time.

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