I killed John Inman

OK, I probably need to backtrack a bit from there…

Things have been a bit quiet in the freelance editing world, and I knew there would be no Lonely Planet work through February and March. In January, instead of confidently approaching new publishers for proofing work, I took a backwards step and contacted Leader Community Newspapers, where I worked as a reporter years ago, with the hope of finding some casual work.

For anyone who doesn’t live in Melbourne, Leader papers are free, have lots of real-estate advertising, and cover doings in the local council area. As the lowest rung in Rupert Murdoch’s empire (mixed metaphor, sorry), Leader is also the training ground for News Limited reporters. My dad has a good Leader story: A few years ago he was listening to the radio in his car and tuned in to 3RPH, and someone was reading a deadly dull story from a Leader newspaper about a girl getting her foot caught in a drain in a Doncaster park. He laughed to himself and thought ‘Wow, that must have been a slow news week, even for Leader’. At the end of the report the announcer said ‘And that was “Girl Gets Foot Caught in Drain” by Kate James’.

Anyway, that kind of brilliant reportage must have been remembered by someone at Leader, because they took me on for four weeks of reporting, at the Dandenong Leader and then the Progress Leader (again, if you don’t know Melbourne, that’s pretty much the whole socio-economic spectrum covered, with stories about drugs and refugee gang warfare at one end and jet-setting surgeons and indignant soccer moms at the other).

Let’s be honest – I didn’t much enjoy the last four weeks. I like editing, and I really enjoy working from home and setting my own hours. I had forgotten how hellish it is to be confined to an office cubicle full time, doing a job you don’t like, listening to sales reps on the other side of the partition making loud pitches for ad packages or discussing their advancing pregnancies. (None of which was the fault of the very nice reporters and editors I worked alongside, let alone the chief of staff who kindly gave me as much work as I’d asked for at exactly the time I needed it.)

One of the more interesting stories I wrote was about a film writer and reviewer turned filmmaker, Tim Hunter. His first film, a documentary about Speedos, did pretty well on the gay film-festival circuit, and he’s just put together a short film called Working it Out, which is screening at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival tomorrow.

I liked Tim, and I wrote up what I thought was a reasonably interesting piece, including his observations about the way people wrongly stereotype gay men. When the paper came out (so to speak) the story had been clumsily hacked by the sub-editor. Even worse was the sub’s headline: Gay times for director.

I was seriously embarassed, and I openly ranted at the editor, questioning whether the sub’s sexual politics came from watching Are You Being Served? ‘The caption under the photo might as well have read “I’m free!”‘ I said.

The editor, Natalie, is in her 20s and had no idea what I was talking about. She had never heard of Mr Humphries, bless her. So I gave her the run-down on one of the most stereotypical gay characters in TV history, played by John Inman.

The next day, John Inman died.

Natalie saw the news on her computer, and turned to me. ‘You put the moz on him,’ she said.

If I believed in the moz, I’d be very worried right now. Luckily, there’s only one Moz for me.

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