Thirty years ago I landed a journalism cadetship of sorts doing research and admin for the star newsreader – a woman who was one of my earliest mentors and heroes. I was the greenest reporter in the television newsroom and not in the environmental sense.
Within a year or two, the guard changed and a new crew of journalists sauntered in, full of attitude, many of them women. On a gender basis in terms of ratio it is still one of the most diverse workplaces I’ve experienced. Yes there were issues but they were up front and in your face, not hidden and insidious as many corporate workplaces can be.
A group of us became great workmates. We were all in our early twenties; marriage, mortgages and motherhood were in the distant future. So too were death and divorces. All that mattered was getting the story to air.
We learned the ropes from the old school journos and bashed out our scripts on self carbon triplicate paper in pink and blue using manual typewriters. Autocue was typed on the only electric typewriters in the newsroom and scrolled manually. Those autocue women were scarily calm. Their speed and accuracy while the line producer hovered over their shoulder barking intros was unshakable.
We covered murders and earthquakes, had our assigned beats: police, political, health and sport, many of us travelled to cover major sporting events, celebrity profiles and international elections.
Each reporting shift would start in the hair and makeup studo, early morning. One by one we’d arrive with just-washed wet hair and hangovers. The makeup crew would do their best to drag our physical presentation up to on air standard. The morning show presenter, a veteran TV entertainer, known for her enthusiastic partying, was a common conversation topic: ‘her eyes were like piss holes in the snow this morning, I worked fucking miracles,’ one stylist would brag, as we looked at the studio monitor and agreed, yes, good work.
Professionally, our collective confidence was off the scale, despite an obnoxious news director who constantly criticised our appearance (we’d laugh at his habit of strolling around the newsroom smacking a riding crop on his palm, what the hell was that about?)
Solidarity was strong. We laughed, cried, ate and drank together most Friday nights. We were the gnoofs: Girls’ Night Out On Friday.
Thankfully we didn’t know then what lay ahead. Affairs. Suicide. Stillbirth. Cancer. Failure. Death.
What lay ahead was life.