One morning having got up at the crack of dawn to watch an important football match from back home, I drunkenly stumbled across a newspaper office after celebrating a fine early morning victory with a few beers. Being a journalist I felt a sense of serendipity at my discovery and chewed over the possibility of contacting the organisation to see if there was any work going – after sleeping off the booze, of course.
I realised that I had unwittingly become sucked into the backpacker lifestyle, including doing the same type of jobs, which I had proved beyond all doubt I was useless at. I boldly came to the conclusion, therefore, that I would apply to the newspaper and hopefully put an end to humiliating myself via my conference erections’ career.
To my joy, I was contacted by the newspaper within a few days asking if I would like to come in. During a friendly chat with the editor I was then offered night shifts on the crime desk, including at the weekend when the real action took place. “Saturday night is normally the busiest night….and when we get the most murders,” I was helpfully informed. “So hopefully there will be plenty for you to get stuck into.” Fascinating as it was to get an insight into the patterns of criminality in Sydney, I was also instantly filled with a warm feeling like I had come home after being reminded of the black humour that existed within the industry. “Sounds like fun,” I said rubbing my hands gleefully at the prospect.
I was told I would be working closely with a photographer on my shifts and that it was vital we didn’t stray too far from one another too often when out on the streets in the early hours. “It’s the most dangerous shift and we’ve had people attacked before on it, so just watch each other’s back,” a senior figure remarked as I was introduced to some of the staff.
The more I was told about the job the more I liked the sound of it, though it sounded like a body shield wouldn’t have gone amiss. Essentially the shift boiled down to driving around in a company car looking for as much trouble as we could possibly get our hands on – the more dangerous the better. The way this would be achieved was by eavesdropping on conversations between fire and ambulance crews via a radio scanner, which would helpfully alert us to where incidents were taking place. This was perfectly legal and meant we were getting fresh information as it happened rather than waiting hours for the yawning press departments to confirm something. That’s if they could be bothered to at all.
Since the police had gone encrypted a year earlier it was unfortunately now illegal to listen in on their conversations, much to the dismay of the newsroom. This had made getting juicy stories a lot harder and taken some of the fun out of the shift, so I was told. But on the plus side it meant your life expectancy was significantly higher, as it was now considerably more difficult to pitch-up in the middle of a shoot-out or lead the way during a high-speed car chase.