Getting to the hart of the matter

It’s the festive season, for Christ’s sake, so why would the bitter and twisted old hacks who compile this column get stuck into the pretty young thing doing the Boxing Day Sydney to Hobart race start for ABC TV news that night.

Okay, we know she’s a pretty, young thing because Chloe Hart absolutely nailed her to-camera piece as her media boat chased the yachts out to sea. She’s clearly clever and bright and has a great future in journalism.

And for almost the entire report, Chloe did a damn fine job in our collective opinions, explaining how COVID-19 had wrecked some entrants’ plans and clearly worried the heck out of others.

But then she said this half way through: “Crews breathed a sigh of relief when the starting cannon fired.”

Did they really, Chloe? Got on the radio phone to a number of skippers as the boats made their way out through the Heads and confirmed that, did we?

Or could you hear the collective sighs from the shore or the media boat?

It’s a nonsense, of course. It’s a fiction. It didn’t happen. Which means it had no place in any report by any journalist doing their job well.

In her defence, a form of hyperbole as a creative writing device? No. Doesn’t wash.

In pre-race manoeuvering and the actions needed immediately on the sound of the starting cannon, a sigh was never going to be on any sailor’s mind or passing their lips, individually or in concert with others.

Despite COVID, the start of that race is a joyous and colourful spectacle and if Chloe Hart wanted to try her hand at some colourful and creative writing and reporting, then she should have gone for it without resorting to something as silly as that.

Be it Xmas or any other time of the year, the bitter and twisted old hacks at the MGH would like to think that rather than being overly critical, we are giving Chloe sound advice as she perfects he craft.

We all wish Chloe well. The next time Chloe is reading through her notes before doing her voiceovers, we want her to recognise instinctively that “Crews breathed a sigh of relief when the starting cannon fired” doesn’t pass muster and if she wanted to get across how stressful the days and hours leading up to the race itself, something like “Crews would not have been blamed if they had breathed a sigh of relief…” would have been much, much better.

With the savage cuts to Aunty, the MGH suspect the chances of someone senior to Chloe being in the newsroom to have a quiet word with her are very slim indeed; that the reality is there’s no-one to to tutor her to do her best and not allow bad habits to become ingrained. Ditto for the lack of experienced subs – or should that be any subs? – in print-media newsrooms any more to help turn young scribes into the very best newshounds they can be.

This lack of in-house, day-to-day training – enough old hands still around to happily and willingly pass on their knowledge, support and if need be, from time to time, helpful criticism – does not bode well for the future of journalism in Australia.