Covering the floods for the Chinchilla News


Premier Anna Bligh (left) with reporter Graham Osborne (right)

Premier Anna Bligh (left) with reporter Graham Osborne (right)

By Graham Osborne

IF any student journalists have doubts about being bored stupid at a country newspaper then rest assured you’ll be anything but bored.

In my first four months at the Chinchilla News there have been two floods, constant battles between gas and coal companies and landholders, and a Melon Festival thrown in to lighten the mood.

Couple that with the evacuation twice of nearby Condamine and the flooding of Tara and Warra there has been plenty to report on.

Only three weeks into my job I covered a protest by farmers against QGC, a coal seam gas company based at the Kenya plant between Chinchilla and Tara.

My story made the front page with the headline supplied by my editor “Coal Seam Gas Not Welcome”.

I reported that one of the vehicles knocked down the QGC plants gate and that a protester punched a sign, which is what happened.

The day after the paper came out, one of the protesters threatened to sue the paper because he said the truck only bumped the fence, and a member of the local chamber of commerce was angry because he thought the paper was suggesting people didn’t like the coal seam gas companies.

Nice initiation to rural journalism, I here you say.

The battle between the gas companies and farmers took a break over Christmas as Chinchilla and surrounding areas were inundated by floods on Boxing Day and in early January.

There were too many stories to count but I mostly covered the effects on people, their properties and flooded businesses and farms.

Stories about families wading through chest-high snake infested waters with only a rope to keep them together, or a local councillor in neck-high water with a sea of spiders drifting around him.

Then you had tanks rolling through Condamine and the amazing SES, fire officers and police helping to evacuate then clean up this small rural town.

The obligatory visits of politicians with Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, Tim Mulherin MP and Phil Reeves MP dropping by and Queensland Governor Penelope Wensley driving in for constant cups of tea.

To top it all off, during all this I had to write a 16 page Melon Festival spread from our office building that was being fixed after it was flooded.

Now the Melon Festival has come and gone, hopefully it will be a bit less hectic in the coming weeks.

Anyway, as you can see life as a country journalist doesn’t consist of writing stories about cats up trees and octogenarian tea parties, although there is the occasional shaggy dog story.

You also get to take a lot of photos which is great and at our paper you also have to do the layout and design.

I have seen all those skills that journalism students are learning at the moment get put to the test. So those students who may think like I did that layout and design isn’t their thing; take my advice and turn up to the tutorials.

Just to finish off. The people in the country towns are fantastic so if you get a chance to work, or do a bit of work experience in the bush, go for it.

You may not have the fast food restaurants or even a shoe shop but you’ll have an experience of a lifetime and be better off for it.