When I worked on the Advocate here in Bathurst, I sat opposite Terry Jones, who’d started out at the newspaper in the late 1950s as a teenage cadet. He did go off to work at other newspapers around the state, but came “home” to the Advocate some years ago. Yes, he must be very close to retirement age. Terry, by the way, used to live the house next door to ours. He remembers Torch Street when it was just a dirt road and the siren used to go off at 7am, and the railway workers used to emerge from the houses with their lunch pails. He remembers our backyard as being full of daffodils. I keep thinking I’ll plant daffodils in honour of the daffs of fifty years ago.
Anyway, I notice in today’s Advocate that the NSW police force has decided to stop personal interviews with police officers by journalists. Journalists are to be advised on the news all at the same time by media release.
I have just fired off a letter to the Advocate. Here it is:
As a former newspaper reporter, one of my “rounds” included personal meetings with a police officer to find out the latest happenings. I see in Terry Jones’ report in the Advocate today that this long-standing tradition is to be axed. Such meetings are the stuff of lively local journalism, and they are the stuff of a lively democracy. Now journalists have been told to stay out of the police station and wait beside the fax machine. It may seem like a small thing, and it will probably disappear without a murmur, but I can’t let the moment go without a whimper. It is in these small moments that democracy is whittled away. Without channels for a vigorous back-and-forth with the real people on the ground (as opposed to media managers) we all lose, as the public information so vital to democracy is buried under piles of spin.