Today I’m introducing a new section of the Crawford Media newsletter that I hope works out: Real Hovels of News. It’s for photos of newsrooms or places of journalistic endeavour, and I’m relying on readers to send me the images and the stories. The stories are what’s important.
Newsroom environments tend to be down at heel, and the more down at heel, the more journos seem to like them. There’s something authentic about crap veneer furniture, threadbare carpets and woeful kitchenettes. It’s like you can tell no one is getting paid off.
Here’s a story former News Corp journalist Paul Sheridan told me when I was researching alpha male editors for the book I wrote with Andy Hunter and Dom Filipovic. The “Col” referred to here is the legendarily unpleasant Col Allan.
I was at The Tele prior to the Holt Street refit, and the newsroom was basically just one vast room. You could still see the line where the wall between where the old Telegraph and the old Sun had been. In the centre of the newsroom was the kitchen. The kitchen was very Spartan. There were a couple of old, dilapidated cupboards. There was a perpetually boiling urn. There was the caterers’ pack of International Roast. And there was a teaspoon, attached to a chain. The chain was connected to the cupboard, and the teaspoon had been there so long half of it had worn away. Half of the spoon was gone.
I remember walking into the kitchen one day and there’s Col, making himself a cup of coffee. I had no idea that the guy even knew who I was. It was very early on in my time at The Tele. I had written a story — it was summer, and there’d been violent storms. I’d written the story and this was the day after it had been published. Col just looked at me. He goes:
‘Mate, is “forecasted” a fucking word?’
‘Urm . . . no.’
‘Well don’t put it in my fucking copy again. If I could throw this fucking spoon at you, I would.’
I’m surprised I didn’t wet myself on the spot. That’s the type of guy he was. He knew everything that was happening around him. It was his domain.
I’ve asked Paul for a photo, but he doesn’t have one. I want to see that line running down the middle of the newsroom. I want to see that spoon. Paul and I are still chasing the newsroom picture. If you have one, please send it in.
As I was thinking about this, and the physical environments that news is made in, I realised I’ve worked in some pretty extraordinary places. The Radio Netherlands building was shaped like an aeroplane. The Ninemsn newsroom was housed in the (truly) beautiful first floor of Australia Square on George Street in Sydney, that had once been a car showroom. I hardly have any photos. In general, representations of how journalists work are missing from the historical record. It would be great to change that with Real Hovels of News. I’m asking for your help, which all the books tell me is healthy.
This is the building I worked in for three years in Hilversum, the Netherlands. It was purpose built for Radio Nederland Wereldomroep (Radio Netherlands, the Dutch world service) in 1961 and is now classified as a national monument.