There’s a saying in journalism, that you can have the best story in the world, but if you don’t get it out there in time for your readership, it doesn’t mean a thing.
Meeting deadlines, or getting the story first, is still important, despite the changing face of the media and communications.
My journalism cadetship at The Daily News, Murwillumbah taught me a lot about accuracy, being meticulous and the importance of contacts.
My stint at Brisbane’s now defunct afternoon newspaper, the Telegraph, taught me about writing for tight deadlines, and also having the ability to dictate stories, without the aid of notes, on many occasions, to a copy taker back in the office.
The 1982 Kangaroo rugby league tour of Britain and France was my first overseas assignment, and to get my stories back to the Telegraph, I had to dictate to a male copytaker, (Harry was his first name) based in London, and he would send the story to Brisbane, via teleprinter.
Anyway, it worked well enough, although I was not always happy with the treatment my stories received back in Brisbane. Every journalist on distant assignment, would have similar gripes.
‘Harry’ was a patient, pleasant chap, and ahead of the Kangaroos’ match against Fulham at Craven Cottage, I offered him a couple of free tickets to the match, as thanks.
He replied, perhaps a little curtly, “No Thanks. Rugby League is a northern game”.
Now, if he had said, ‘No Thanks, I don’t like rugby league’, I would have no gripes.
But that ‘Northern Game’ reasoning is typical of the battles league has in the UK, even today, with the country’s administrative and media power base in the south of the country.
When the Northern clubs broke away from the Rugby Union in 1895, the strength of the game in England was equally divided. In fact an England team selected from the northern clubs, probably would have belted an England team chosen from the southern clubs.
But the south had the ear of those who mattered, and the rugby union was always going to emerge as the holders of the flame for the rugby code, despite the righteousness of the cause in the north.
Anyway, back to the sending of stories from overseas.
In 1986, when I covered my second Kangaroo tour of the UK, I had a ‘new’ computer with an acoustic coupler, which would send the stories down the line. The only problem was, the coupler had to fit snugly with a the handset of the phone, and this was a hit and miss affair.
At many of the grounds, there were no phones.
The first match I covered, in ’86, was against Cumbria at Barrow-in-Furness. Afterwards I went back to the secretar, Wilf Livingstone’s house, where I tried to send the story down the line. No luck, so I had to dictate to a copy taker in Brisbane, reverse charges of course.
I think I ruined Wilf’s night. He would rather have been back at the reception, having a pint or two.
For most of the tour I was based in the Dragonara Hotel in Leeds, along with the team and a large media pack.
The phone in my room did not couple with my machine, but the handset on the public telephone in reception, did.
So that’s where I transmitted many of my stories, sometimes spending up to an hour trying to get a yarn through, much to the disgust of others who wanted to use the phone. One night that included noted interviewer, Michael Parkinson.
Email was still a long way off.
There were many misadventures down the track, but that will suffice for now. I am getting too stressed recalling those days.
Footnote: Australians playing at Barrow in 1986 included the great, Kevin ‘Horrie’ Hastings (Sydney Easts), Mark Meskell (Brisbane Souths), Nick Muir (Brisbane Easts) and Steve Carter (Brisbane Brothers). Carter would go on to play for Queensland the following year. Barrow, coached by Ivor Kelland, also boasted former Springbok rugby union forward, Nick Du Toit. None of them were eligible for Cumbria, which was chosen strictly from the ranks of those born in the County.
The Kangaroos won 48-12 with halves Terry Lamb and Greg Alexander scoring three tries each. On of Cumbria’s two try scorers was Les Holliday (Swinton) who would go on to play for Great Britain five years later, from the Widnes club.
Photo: Steve Carter in his Brisbane Wests’ days.