The Head of TV News and Other Light Entertainment did not look up as the young woman entered his office. Its walls were lined with framed awards for Best- Dressed Male Presenter, Best-Dressed Female Presenter, Best Hairstyle, Best Suit, Best Tie and Best Teeth.
He was scanning YouTube for clips of runaway shopping trolleys, turtles on trampolines or hedgehogs riding skateboards. Every few minutes he would shout
“awesome”, “brilliant” or “no way!”
The young woman coughed gently.
“Who are you?” he asked without looking up.
The young woman said she was the new TV reporter.
“What is your journalistic background?”
he asked, downloading a clip of a dog falling off a surfboard.
“Six months at Auckland Journalism School and two days on a community paper in Kaitaia,” she replied.
“Car Tyre?” said the Head of TV News and Other Light Entertainment. “Where’s that? West Auckland?”
The girl opened her mouth but he held up his hand.
“Doesn’t matter. What’s important is you’re a brunette,” he said.
The girl blushed and touched her fringe.
“Yes, both my mum and dad still have very dark hair even though they’re really old . . . like in their mid-40s.”
“No worries,” smiled the Head of News and Other Light Entertainment. “We’ll have you blonde in no time. Corporate colour for female TV reporters you know.
“Have you done any hard-news stories?”
The young woman gave a shy smile.
“I covered the Kaitaia Dog Trials on my second day, a golden wedding and interviewed a really old man, he was like, 60-something, who rode his scooter into a parking meter.”
“Excellent!” said the Head of News and Other Light Entertainment.
“Now what about the weather?”
The young woman looked blank.
“It was nice and sunny over on the North Shore this morning although I did see a small cloud when I was coming over the harbour bridge. It reminded me of a McDonald’s ice-cream.”
“Good,” said the Head of News and Other Light Entertainment. “A sharp eye for detail. But what I meant was, could you cover big weather stories? For instance, we give extensive coverage to the first snow of winter on this channel every year. We have film crews on the Desert Road getting shots of kids throwing snowballs and for our South Island viewers, extensive footage of sheep standing in the snow and cars sliding down icy Dunedin streets.
“And on really hot days we like plenty of footage of people lying on the beach with Rangitoto Island in the background.”
The girl gave an uncertain nod.
“I guess so,” she said.
“I’m sure you could,” said the Head of News and Other Entertainment.
“We think it’s important that our reporters stand outside in howling gales and sleet, brushing strands of wet hair out of their eyes and shouting at the camera, while dodging flying sheets of corrugated iron. It makes it more hard-hitting.”
“The congregated iron?” asked the girl.
The Head of News and Other Light Entertainment was about to answer when he heard a voice booming down the corridor.
“Come in Dunedin!” called the voice.
“Time to put the old dog inside the shed and throw another log on the fire. Get out those winter woollies and put the jug on cos’ Jack Frost’s ready to nip us in the . . ”.
The Head of News and Other Light Entertainment jumped up and slammed the door.
“That’s our bloody weather guy warming up. Drives me nuts,” he hissed.
“It takes him three appearances on our prime news hour each night before he gives us tomorrow’s forecasts.”
The young woman smiled.
“It’s probably because he’s old and forgets stuff,” she said.
There was a knock on the door and several people began to file into the room. The Head of News and Other Light Entertainment gestured towards the girl.
“Our new Weather Reporter. She’s sitting in on our daily news conference. So what’s our top story for the 6 o’clock news?”
The Political Editor brushed an imaginary speck of lint off his immaculate sleeve.
“The Government’s about to conclude a huge bilateral trade agreement with India,” he murmured. “It’s worth billions to the economy and will be a major boost for our struggling exporters”.
“Boring,” yawned the Head of News and Other Light Entertainment.
“I understand the PM will be wearing a traditional Indian suit for the signing ceremony,” added the Political Editor.
“Ah, now you’re talking,” said the Head of News and Other Light Entertainment, sitting up. “Make sure we get plenty of footage of the PM dressed up in a turban or sari.”
The Parliamentary Chief Reporter raised her hand.
“I’m right across the story about the Housing Minister announcing a new scheme to build 10,000 houses a year for a decade. It would mean a huge increase in jobs in the building sector,” she said.
The Head of News and Other Light Entertainment frowned, then his face lit up.
“Talk to the Opposition. Find somebody who thinks it’s going to destroy the rain forests and ruin Auckland property prices.”
He glanced at a list on his desk.
“Right, that’s politics covered. What else have we got?”
The Environmental Reporter put down her recycled cardboard coffee cup.
“The Department of Conservation released some kiwi chicks in a remote part of the Ureweras today,” she said.
“I’ve got a 12-minute in-depth piece showing the kiwis being put into boxes and fantastic shots of the helicopter flying over native bush.”
“Brilliant!” beamed The Head of News and Other Light Entertainment. There was a slight cough and heads turned towards the Overseas News Editor.
“I’ve got footage of renewed fighting in the Ukraine, a massive earthquake in China which has killed 1,200 people, the Ebola epidemic is widening and scientists are predicting the complete meltdown of the polar ice cap by 2020,” he said.
“Oh, and I saw a six-second clip of a car being sliced in half by a goods train somewhere in Texas.”
“Sorry, no room for all that,” replied The Head of News and Other Light Entertainment. “At this rate we’ll have more news than adverts. And we’ve still got 22 minutes of sport previews to fit in.
“But I’ll take the train clip.”