When the news of JFK’s assassination hit the world in 1963, the media race to grab the shiniest news baubles was all-consuming. Back then, as now, most journalists covered the major parts of the story staring them in the face. Because, why not?
But one journalist at the time looked around: Jimmy Breslin. He chose to look beyond the obvious. He looked for the little people. The undertaker who prepared the body, the grave digger, the priest. For there among the madding crowd the honest, unadorned stories could be found.
It doesn’t seem as if the death of one of the most famous politicians of our time and a shearing shed up the road from Dubbo would have much in common. But on April 27 last year, in the midst of our most recent federal election campaign, the ghost of Breslin probably heaved a pissed-off sigh.
On that day, in an average shearing shed on an average farm, Scott Morrison the electioneering prime minister performed an average job of shearing a sheep. But the thronging press corps gasped, enthralled.
Fresh from the Canberra-bubble-on-wheels bus, they hovered around Scott Morrison’s form, scrawling notes and photographing the pre-packaged political theatre in front of them.
Here was Scott Morrison in his Wally the Shearer outfit. The week before, they’d lapped up Morrison in his Scotty the Carrot Picker costume. No questions. No worries. There’s the nightly news story for you all neatly tied up in a sheep’s fleece. Just the way the Liberal campaign operatives planned it.
But if the media had bothered to step away from the fleece-covered stage for a moment; if they’d bothered to go out behind the shearing shed to talk to some of those shearers, they might have discovered a very different view of the world — one far removed from the one carefully crafted for them that day.
They might, for example, have discovered that local Nationals member Mark Coulton had been hard at work handing out a cheque for $146,000 the month before to a tiny pony club just down the road with only 43 members.