Well readhead: breathing life into anniversary journalism
Note: This Well Readhead entry by Leigh serves as an introduction to the special one-off piece she has filed, which is published directly below.
I may be telepathic. I can foresee what will appear in this year’s Christmas Day package on the 7pm ABC news - a grab from the Catholic Archbishop, a grab from the Anglican archbishop, shots of the homeless being served lunch at a shelter, shots of kids unwrapping presents if the reporter’s lined up a family early.
There could well be vision from Bethlehem of a Nativity re-enactment. The Pope in St Peter’s Square obviously. If the journalist gets really lucky, there might be some quirky sidebar such as a surfing Santa or a dog that can bark jingle bells. And call me crazy, but I’m going to predict that on Christmas Eve on Channel Ten, the price of prawns will be skyrocketing.
Every journalist knows that there are certain stories that show up annually on the assignments board. They’re so formulaic, the packages are almost identical from year to year: Australia Day, Anzac Day, the Easter Show (cue reporter piece-to-camera on a sideshow ride) and New Year’s Eve (Sydney’s fireworks are always the best in the world).
Indeed, if I grabbed my Good Friday TV news package from 1994, I could probably run it again this Easter and the only thing that would give it away would be my shoulder pads and a hairdo last seen on Melrose Place.
When you’re assigned these yarns, it can be very difficult to find ways of telling them originally. The British writer Charlie Brooker has beautifully satirised the nature of TV news and the various conventions we reporters regularly fall back on.
One of the standard yearly stories is the First Day of School. You know the drill: gorgeous kids in their neatly pressed uniforms and huge backpacks arrive at the gates holding mum & dad’s hand, kids give cute vox pops, teary mums wave good-bye and so on.
Over the Christmas holidays, the looming school year got me thinking: is there a way to tell the first day story that’s not clichéd?
To that end, I spent the first day of the 2010 school year at a Sydney primary school for a fly-on-the wall look. This is a bit different to the usual Well-readhead format which will be back next fortnight. But I hope you enjoy it.