Being a journalist during an election campaign is like being a chip dropped in a park full of seagulls – everyone wants a piece of you and is squabbling loudly to get it. We’re not complaining. We love a good story.
But the constant barrage of announcements, re-announcements, photo opportunities (for pollies to get their mugs in the paper and on the website), social media trolling and missives from press secretaries can sap your energy faster than a muggy February heatwave.
Then there are the complaints of bias because one side of the political divide reckons you’re giving too much attention to the other. When those accusations have come from all sides – which they have – you know you’re doing your job well.
There are the interviews with politicians who appear to listen to your question but give an answer which has nothing to do with it. You ask what they’re doing to fix something and they talk about the failings of the other side. That’s when you know they haven’t thought about the issue you’ve raised.
An old favourite is the phone call which begins with “I have an exclusive for you.” Translated, it means either “I’ve hawked this around the other media outlets and they’re not interested” or “I need to get my spin across and your outlet has the biggest audience.”
Party hacks are always entertaining. They collar you at events and in a grave whisper say, “We’ll have an announcement on the highway soon.” You remind them you’ve been waiting for a year for an announcement and you’re not holding your breath. They skulk off as if you’ve insulted their grandmother.
You chuckle at the cliches thrown about by other media while doing your level best to avoid using them yourself. One report last week said Opposition Leader Bill Shorten got a rock star reception at his forum in Nowra. Yeah, there was applause but judging by the age of the crowd, though, the rock stars on its playlist were most likely Elvis and Buddy Holly.
Being in the middle of it all requires a strong stomach and a good sense of humour. You learn to take everything you hear with a bag of salt. You learn to be patient with the other journos, whose questions can be longer than the pollies’ answers.
You get back to the office, pull the words, photos and videos together and thank your lucky stars you’re having so much fun.