By David Vincent
I wonder how we will be received…
It was very clear to me that we all had one thing in mind about the Herald Sun: it is the most unfriendly news outlet towards African communities in Australia. Whether this statement is exaggerated remains to be discovered. In the recent past, the Herald Sun has published very negative stories about African young people finding it difficult to integrate into the mainstream community, suggesting that they are a threat to the security and general wellbeing of Australian people.
This week we visited three mainstream news agencies: the ABC, SBS and the Herald Sun. The mention of the Herald Sun generated a huge debate and everyone wanted to be part of the team visiting it.
As we depart and wave goodbye to our colleagues, we realised that there was a lot expected from us. This put even more pressure on our team, but I just wanted to go there and meet the people who are responsible for producing some of the news that has defamed my community.
We were ambivalent about what was ahead of us in regards to who we would meet and how we would be received.
Tram number 57 pulled up at the Victoria Market and we all got in. It was a very beautiful sunny day, perfect weather for a chatty stroll through Flinders Street, down the tunnel and across the Yarra River. It was a pleasant walk. The conversation started by Violeta telling us about her American heritage; Abraham a keen photographer could not stop taking photos, and we debated whether we will meet Andrew Bolt. We had very random discussion on different topics but at the end it all came back to something about the Herald Sun.
At first we were unsure exactly which building it was. The first attempt failed after we asked one of the passersby whom we assumed might know which building was the Herald Sun. On the second attempt, we were pointed to a building just in front of us by a well suited-up gentleman. As we walked up the stairs towards the HWT tower there was an immediate wave of silence. The only thing I could hear were our synchronised steps up the stairs. It was a relief to see Michael G standing with the photographer Richard at the concierge. We all signed in and were issued with visitors’ passes. This is it! My heart started to pound more quickly than usual as a well dressed gentleman approached us. He introduced himself as Mr. Hugh Jones, Managing Editor. He quickly turned to Richard the photographer and murmured something. I gathered it was about their strict photography policy. That covered, we all introduced ourselves and the tour started as we waited for the lift. We all had pens and note books ready to take notes. I’m sure it was a short wait but to me it seems ages before we finally heard the clicking sound of the lift’s door opening. Michael said, “Make sure you ask as many questions as you wish.”
We quickly learned that Herald Sun actually represents two major news papers, the Herald and the Sun which merged in the 1990s under the banner the Herald Sun.
The tour started at the top floor where all the chief editors and sub editors were located. At the editor’s suit, there were papers all over on the desks creating a very untidy work area but nevertheless you could see men and women at work. You couldn’t escape the pleasant newspaper aroma in the air. Hugh stopped and explained what each and everyone was doing. We all gathered around Neil, the sports editor who was kind enough to explain what he was doing. Although I did not understand what he was explaining, it was fabulous seeing him clicking through the next day sports page layout; it was simply amazing.
As we walked down the stairs through other departments, I was astounded how on all levels people stopped to say hello to “the Michael”. This man was famous in this part of the town. I was in particular surprised by meeting Bob; I read his name on the badge hanging on his shirt. In my opinion he would qualify to be the oldest reporter in the building but I quickly let that thought go. He exchanged a few words with Michael as Michael introduced us to his former colleague.
As we walked down to the next level and someone from the team mentioned Mr Andrew Bolt…Hugh turned with a sharp bright smile and said, “Actually his office is on this floor, and perhaps we might be able to meet him.” He knew immediately why we wanted to meet Mr Bolt but there is more to that and am sure he doesn’t know. We all looked at each other as if the entire reason of this tour was to meet Andrew Bolt. To our disappointment he was not in his office but to be honest I wasn’t keen on meeting him. I simply don’t like him. We had another quick stop at the recording studio and to the library where Hugh explained how important this section of the building was to their work. At the studio we all gathered and took a group photo. Even Hugh had a chance to pose with us in the group photo. I looked at my watch and released the time had gone very quickly.
Apart from MX, pick me up, who were gone for the day, everybody we met – including those who were out in the field gathering stories – were all working towards producing one news paper at the end of the day. All we met were lovely individuals. It was amazing how at the end all the stories are collated to produce “the Herald Sun.”
They say, “too many cooks spoil the broth.” This is different from the synergy I just witnessed. At the Herald Sun you have 430 journalists who contribute to just one final paper. Hugh was very generous with his time, although he was not sure what to say when asked some curly questions about how refugee stories are told and represented in his organisation; he was simply humble and welcoming. He even invited us to come back or if we have any concerns/queries we can contact him.
I concluded Herald Sun reporters all just wanted to do their work with no intention of causing anyone or any group of people any harm. One man changed my views.