Behind the scenes… covering Djokovic

Words – Peter Hadfield
PhotoMedia – Raj Suri

It was a story made for today’s media. A famous tennis star held in detention. A diplomatic row between two countries. Passionate demonstrations in the streets. And a nail-biting court case that swung first one way and then the other. The perfect media story… of no consequence whatsoever.
For a week the Djokovic saga gripped the world’s attention, and most foreign correspondents here faced the kind of all-day coverage usually reserved for bushfires and armed sieges. As soon as I thought I was done for the night, having filed my last report for one programme (in Canada), another programme would come on air and want more. And as soon as a decision was made one way by the Minister or by the Court, hopefully settling the matter, there’d be an appeal, or a contrary decision putting everything back on the table. 
Ordinarily, covering these kinds of breaking stories is adrenaline-inducing stuff for journalists. They put your byline on the front page, and pay the bills. But was I alone in thinking this story was a travesty of what real journalism should be about?
OK, we were reporting the news, that’s what we do. But on Saturday came another news story — the Tonga volcano. On Sunday the Pacific nation was struggling to cope with the disaster, and the world badly needed to know how much damage was done and how many lives had been lost. It’s what news reporting is all about.
But, of course, it came on the same day as the Djokovic ruling, and I spent five hours watching the proceedings on the Federal Court live feed.
So when the line-up was being decided for that morning’s news shows, I asked the senior editor what he wanted to do about Tonga. After all, I couldn’t cover both stories for the same show.
He did what I expected — led with Djokovic. Tonga would be covered by the studio.
To be honest, that was the right editorial decision. Tonga was by far and away the more important story from a humanitarian and historical perspective, but few people in Canada could even place it on the map. By that time Djokovic was the focus of world attention.

It’s still disappointing that this is where priorities lie.  

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