Monday 11 November 2019

Great Journalism at the Kulata Café

The pleasure to be found in someone else's local paper

There is no greater pleasure for the travelling scribbler than to sit in a café miles from home reading the local paper of a community you have yet to meet.
That is exactly what I was doing in the Kulata Café at the small town for tourists at Uluru in Australia's hot, red centre.
I had taken a free paper from the rack.  The first sip told me that the coffee was good and the first headline told me that the paper was going to be a treasure.  'Dead Bat Set My Nature Strip On Fire', it roared.  Clearly the 'NT News — Your Voice in the [Northern] Territory' knew a good story when it saw one.  The sports section bore the title "Just Footy" this was a journal that did not go in for highfalutin language.
The café was part of a scheme to train young aboriginal people in the hospitality industry.  The staff were all young and there was an air of anxiety as they all did their nervous best.  I frightened the life out of Victoria, a waitress, by asking her if she was getting good training.  In panic, she turned to others for an answer.  I think I must have been the first customer to speak to her directly but, 'Yes', she was and 'Yes', she did enjoy her work and then she ran away.
I turned back to the paper and increased my word power as the Reader's Digest used to tell us, always pays.  I learned that Ambos (ambulance drivers) were on red alert; that Firies had attended a blaze and that the Salvos had kicked off an appeal.  Salvos?  The Salvation Army of course.
A story about a proposal to open a strip club called Honey Pot near a school caught my eye with the masterpiece headline, 'Sorry Honey Your Strip Club Is Unbareable.'  And yes, that is how the sub-editor spelt it.
Suddenly, I noticed that I was reading yesterday's edition so I rushed out and bought the current offering.  Returning to the café, I ordered more coffee and a profiterole with an espresso cream filling.  It was much as you would expect except that it was the size of a cottage loaf.
The new paper had engineered a scoop.  A previous edition must have featured Harvey, a shih-tzu dog.  A reader had got in touch with the paper to say that Harvey was the spitting image of his own dog, Jack.  The paper had arranged for the doggy doppelgangers to meet and reported the event in a full page spread under the headline, 'I Couldn't Tell Him from Jack Shih-Tzu'.
It was reported that the pair had been standoffish at first but were soon enjoying a sniff and a pee round the yard.  You just do not get journalism this incisive at home.
And so, full of caffeine, cholesterol and culture I set off to see a big red rock I had heard a lot about.