Most journalists in Perth, especially those who have been around since the late 90’s, have had some connection to the story of Sarah, Ciara and Jane. Missing girls, murder investigations, a suspect and then the biggest trial WA has ever seen. So, when we turned up yesterday, we all knew it would be a history making day, whatever the outcome. And we all hoped the day would bring some peace to the families.
It was just as chaotic and busy as we had imagined, but it was also much more respectful and dignified than you might realise.
An entire city block was shut down. By the time I got there at 6:30am, most of the TV crews had done half a days’ work. All the major networks had staked their prime position for live broadcasts, they had built risers and set up lighting rigs. In fact, some had begun their set up more than 24 hours earlier. The noisy roadworks on Hay St were hampering the makeshift TV studios, and producers were strategising, to cover multiple positions around the courthouse.
A helicopter had been booked, to follow and film the prison van on route (yes, OJ Simpson comparisons filtered through those of us watching from the ground).
There was a buzz… and it reminded me of one really important and unique fact about Perth media. To those who are in it, you’ll understand exactly what I’m about to say.
There is a sense of comradery amongst the pack that you just don’t see elsewhere. The pool of experienced media experts in Perth is relatively small. It meant most of the pack had, at some point, worked with each other. Today’s rivals were yesterday’s colleagues. Most of the media work alongside each other every day capturing the news, they are friendly and polite to each other. And yesterday, with outlets pulling in so many freelancers for the extraordinary coverage, it became somewhat of a reunion.
I think back to many years ago and sitting in a courtroom in Bali waiting for Schapelle Corby to hear her fate. The mayhem of a media pack in a place like that was a pretty terrifying experience for young TV producer. Yesterday, was nothing like it. Sure, there’ll always be some friendly competition between the networks, but everyone had respect for each other’s jobs, and respect for each other. Regardless of who you were working for yesterday, every person in that media pack held their breath, hoping for justice for Sarah, Ciara and Jane.
The 60 minutes camera crew were rubbing shoulders with the ABC crew. The rivals 7News, 9News, 10news and Sky, were side by side. It was much more “Hey mate, duck down out of my shot” than the push and shove you see in the movies.
But yesterday wasn’t about the media. Solidarity on the steps was undeniable through the actions of the families. Those who got answers, standing by those who didn’t. Solidarity epitomised through the spontaneous round of applause for the prosecutor.
It was obvious we all felt the same thing.
Although the crowd cheered her, they were clapping for something so much bigger. They clapped for the families, they clapped for the three women who weren’t there, they clapped for the safety of their own loved ones. And they clapped for the solidarity we all felt as justice was served.