The Hun Mole:
Notes From A Tabloid Newsroom BY ANONYMOUS
Like many journalism students at Melbourne universities, I participated in an internship as a part of my degree. Like a few journalism students at Melbourne universities, I had a pretty horrific time. The corporation I visited for two weeks was a widely read newspaper that shall be henceforth referred to as The Hun. The internship was supposed to reveal the inner workings of my chosen profession and to inspire me in my future career path. If this is the case, I may as well kiss my journalism career goodbye.
On the first day of my placement, senior journalists and the editor of The Hun reviewed a piece about an overweight man who was endeavoring to lose 200kg through hypnosis. Comments in the news conference included “Of course he’s fat, look at what he eats” and “How does someone let that happen?” On the second day, I overheard a conversation with a senior journalist mocking the grief of the friend of a wellknown footballer who had recently passed away. Similarly, a photographer at the press conference dismissed my concerns that he was taking photos of underage people, saying, “they should be older.” These photos, however, were not published in the final edit. On the fifth day, at The Sunday Hun news conference, a female journalist bizarrely insisted that an article debating the benefits of chocolate should be written by a female: “A woman needs to say chocolate is good.” She then went on to say that a science piece should be cut, commenting, “Women will glaze over—space and history—you’ll lose half your readership.” The editor did not disagree. On the sixth day, a senior journalist sitting across from me repeatedly made transphobic comments to a peer who was discussing a potential story on a trans person with him. His remarks included, “He? She? It?” “There has to be a photo of it” and “You should put the heading—‘My Life As A She-Man!’ or ‘G-Boy.’” No one in the newsroom reacted. On the seventh day, I was asked to write a story about pigs being used to test breast augmentation in a “humorous” tone. I found the proposition absurd and informed my superior that I felt the story was essentially government funded animal cruelty. His response: “You don’t mind if I buxom bacon it up? It’s worth is just so we can use the phrase ‘perky porkers.’” The story did not end up going to print. The senior journalist opposite me moved from transphobia to homophobia on the eighth day, commenting on a recent piece on gay marriage. “Why are they [the gay community] making such a fuss? It’s been
this way for millennia, why change now?” Although he had a right to state an opinion, the blatant sense of entitlement and privilege in the room was palpable. A few minutes later, he joked to the chief-of-staff about a recent article on Catholic priests opposed to gay marriage: “It’s good to have the Catholics in the news with no pedophilia; although I guess there’s still sex and gays.” Throughout the week, I was consistently subjected to patronising attitudes, being referred to as ‘Little Bud’, ‘Champ’ and ‘Kidlet.’ Men were also continuously and unnecessarily sexist, waiting for me to walk through doors and leave the elevator before them. If I had had any energy left in my body after those two weeks, I would have run from the
A few minutes later he joked to the chief-of-staff about a recent article on Catholic priests opposed to gay marriage: “It’s good to have the Catholics in the news with no pedophilia; although I guess there’s still sex and gays.” building when the clock hit 5pm on my last day. My internship doesn’t leave me wanting to be a journalist. At the end of every day I left The Hun’s immense grey building feeling as if all the life, love and passion in me had been sucked out, and replaced with mud. Many of my peers and friends were unimpressed when I spoke to them of my experiences throughout the week, ‘What did you expect?’ they asked, rolling their eyes. Well, I had fairly low expectations of the publication going in to the experience, but a lot lower of the whole industry coming out. Newspapers aren’t just stories. They’re not scraps of paper with people’s opinions scrawled on them. They are a key component in democracy, in reflecting and sustaining social commentary and values. They affect politics, sports, crime,
campaigns—hell, they can even sway you on what to eat for dinner. The Hun’s approach is both deluded and wrong. Basic fact checking would have refuted many of the heteronormative, white, elitist opinions expressed in that building regarding gender and trans people. Basic commonsense and respect would have eliminated many of the other scenarios. These encounters all happened in a period of two short weeks—I shudder to think of the other wrongdoings that must take place throughout an entire year. Scenarios like this shouldn’t exist. They shouldn’t be ‘the norm’ or ‘expected’— especially not for those within the media industry. They should be fought against, yelled at, spat on, and changed. Our journalism lecturers teach us that one of the most important rules in an internship is to not question your superiors. Don’t rock the boat, don’t tell the editors how to do their job, don’t make a mess, and don’t cause a fuss. Because of this, it may not be one my greatest ideas to write an article critical of the popular institution I interned for. But as an aspiring student journalist it would be wrong of me to not bring light to scenarios I believe demean us all. I’ll never be employed by The Hun, but that’s not something I mourn. I usually feel sad when poring over decreasing readerships and closed mastheads. But any force— declining revenue, ethical maelstroms, online competition—that can injure this publication, should be met with party poppers, streamers and a piñata of a certain “climate skeptic’s” head. If Australia’s big mastheads all function like this then I say bring on their decline. Rip down the banners that have led to media exclusivity and elitism. Huzzah to the future of online, diverse reporting. Even if it fucks up, at least it’s not as bad as The Hun. All opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not reflect those of Farrago or The University of Melbourne.