Long time Canberra journalist Sally Hopman is the latest recruit to the Region Media team. She’ll be familiar to readers from her years at The Canberra Times where she wrote extensively about Canberra and the Capital Region before joining the National Library. A Yass Valley resident, she’ll focus on stories about our regional community with all its wonders, quirks and warmth, and would love to hear from you. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My resume stops people in their tracks. Stopper of world wars. Starter of world peace. Knocker backer-er of George Clooney. Writer of the GAN (Great Australian Novel). Friend of Bob Dylan. I could go on but won’t because journalists never lie. Much.
The penultimate claim is almost true. I have started/stopped and started The GAN many times. When I get to the hard bits, the actual writing, I just start a new story and hope for the best – words. At least I know there will be sequels. And prequels. And lots of them.
But the last bit about Bob Dylan is sort-of truthful. I had heard he was arriving at Sydney Airport a couple of lifetimes ago, so went out to, well, see if he’d have my children. Not necessarily at the airport, perhaps somewhere a touch more private. Or at least say hello to him.
I certainly looked the part – mad – in my sarong. I saw him come through the Customs Hall. He walked slowly towards me, I towards him. I could only see one minder – mainly because he took up most of the walkway being as tall as he was wide. Bob moved closer towards me, I to him. Then I made my move with the killer line: “Welcome to Australia,” I said with the brain of a brick.
“Grrr,” he grunted at me. “Get out of my way.”
Thankfully, a newspaper photographer (and not a sound recordist) was there at the time, and he snapped a pic of Bob snarling at him – with a scary-looking woman in a sarong looming behind him.
All those years of trying to grow my hair straight – or resorting to burning my neck on the iron trying to straighten it – so I’d look like Joan Baez were for nought (apparently she and Bob had a deep and meaningful). All those nights listening to my sister impress her boyfriends with my Dylan record collection. All those seconds trying to write poetry and realising I couldn’t. I never tried to learn to sing, I mean, it wasn’t like Bob could. All this time wasted dreaming I was his Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands. Girl From The North Country. More like Idiot Wind, really.
But I have to believe this passion for his words wasn’t wasted. It taught me about the power of writing. How it can move you and others. How telling stories is just the best thing.
I was lucky enough to score a journalist cadetship not long after, on a small newspaper on the NSW South Coast. OK, my boyfriend’s father owned most of the town at the time, but I was assured I got the job on my merits. When I eventually left a few years later, the editor told me he didn’t care who owned the town, if I couldn’t spell I’d have been out on my ear.
It was a great grounding. I learned 47 different ways to describe a bride, why it mattered if you got the name wrong of the person who won Best Scones on a Plate, how many weekend sports results could be crammed into my letterbox, but above all I learned accuracy, the importance of reporting the truth, justice and the Australian way.
A couple of decades later, being a journalist remains an honour. People let you into their lives. They tell you their stories, their confidences and it’s up to you with what you do with that.
From those early days as a cadet journalist in Nowra, I’ve worked on some of the best and worst newspapers in the country and, hopefully, learned rather a lot in the process. This is what I hope I can bring to Region Media. Lots of words, photographs and baked goods (not necessarily homemade but shhhh, they don’t know that).
When I’m not writing, I collect snowdomes, take pics of trees (mostly the same one), live and breathe life on a Yass Valley sheep farm, volunteer at Vinnies and round up Beswick china animals and real rescue dogs – not necessarily in that order.