Very…well…wrapped. So well wrapped, there are some days it just seems easier not to bother unwrapping the thing. Indeed, some days, the newspapers aren’t worth reading anyway; such is life in rural Australia!
Back in Canada, we read two papers a day: The Globe and Mail (we still follow it on Facebook!) and The Edmonton Journal (a real rag, which we don’t miss!). We still get two newspapers delivered each day (well, Monday through Saturday because there is no Sunday paper here…which is silly because that’s the best day for reading a paper): the Daily Advertiser (local) and The Australian (national). Our subscriptions here, though, are a bit odd. When we first moved into the house, Dan called the Advertiser (as we call it…why waste two syllables) to subscribe. They told him they would deliver it, but 2 days late. If we wanted it on its publication day, we had to call the local news agent (what’s that?). So Dan found the creatively-named Kooringal News Agent (since we live in the suburb of Kooringal) and inquired about subscribing. You don’t really subscribe, you just pay the news agent to deliver that day’s paper. It costs the full cover price ($1.40 weekdays, $1.70 Saturday) plus 60 cents for delivery. Sure, why not…more convenient than going to get it every day. Then Dan asked about The Australian. Sure, the newsie says, I can deliver that too…cover price plus 60 cents…or you can just call them and subscribe at a discount. So Lisa goes online to The Australian and subscribes at a 40% discount and no delivery fee; a great deal! So we now pay double the price for the local paper vs. the national one – strange! Even more strange…? We then get a call from the Kooringal News Agent confirming our subscription start date. Turns out, he’s the one delivering both! Which is convenient, because when we go away we just call one person and put a hold on both papers. The funniest part of all of this, though, is that the two papers get delivered separately; we hear the Advertiser hitting the house/lawn/mailbox (wherever the guy throws it) about 6:15 a.m. The Australian arrives some time between 7:25 and 8:00. Very inefficient…
But, well, back to the point of this post: the really funny/strange thing isn’t that they are delivered separately, but that they are wrapped – seriously, tightly wrapped – in a Saran/Glad wrap type of material that is really hard to remove. It’s obvious that they start with the flat paper and then roll it (by machine – we hope!) until it’s super tight, rip the plastic off (what we can only imagine to be) a really long roll, and then move on to the next one… But the wrap is really hard to get off. Really hard! Really, really hard, most days. You know that life is sad when you’re excited that you can easily find the free edge and pull the wrap off, quickly. In fact, another local paper (The Leader, delivered free every Thursday) ran a weeks-long campaign advertising a new “flat wrap”; think of the type of plastic wrap that covers a magazine when delivered in the mail. This was big news here in Wagga! For weeks, they ran testimonials in the paper about how everyone was excited that they didn’t have to struggle to read The Leader. Seriously (and yes, we love the flat wrap, too)! If you can find the end of the wrap, life is good. But most days, it’s a bitch… Think about finding the end of a roll of packing tape and you’ll know what we mean. Some days, we just take the scissors to it (but that’s not as easy as it sounds… you can end up with a pile of Saran pieces all over the counter and small cuts in your paper – which is particularly troubling for Lisa; she’s one of those people who likes a fresh, crisp paper with no sections or pages out of place). And then, when you finally get the paper free from it’s strait-jacket, the damn thing stays curled up in a tight roll! This makes it hell to read. One (local, Aussie) friend told us how he unwraps his, puts it in a hot oven for a minute, takes it out and lays a heavy cutting board on it and goes to work…this, supposedly, flattens it well. Seems like a lot of work, but he says that is the only way to do the crossword. How did he figure that out? Lisa is considering applying for a research grant on this very topic — the information-seeking practices of individuals trying to dewrap their local news.
To go a bit more off topic, we leave home at 7:30 each morning. If The Australian (which, by the way is a horribly conservative paper — owned by Rupert Murdoch, enough said – but probably the best source of info for us) isn’t here when we leave, it sits on the lawn for 8 hours. The sun here is so strong (no ozone layer over Australia, eh!) that it gets a tan. Yes, a tan! The part that is exposed to the sun turns brown. This happens while we’re at work – in only 8 hours. Seeing this reinforces our need for sun screen at all times!
And, we started off by saying that the papers aren’t worth unwrapping sometimes. So, how bad are they, you must be wondering (especially those of you who are familiar with The Edmonton Journal – or even the London Free Press, our previous rag of choice in London, Ontario)? Let us tell you.
The Daily Advertiser is full of court news from the local towns. Pretty humourous actually! And reports on the local shows. On Thursday, it has an insert called “The Rural,” which is all about farming. It is great if you want to know the price difference at auction of Dorset and Merino lambs, for instance. The big highlight of the Advertiser is probably the “Out and About” photo section – 4 colour pages each day of people at shows, charity events, 100th birthday parties, etc. They love it when something like the Picnic Races are on, because they get to show young women in party dresses and silly hats at the Turf Club. They’ll have a field day this week when the Melbourne Cup is on; it’s a race event in Melbourne that threatens to shut down all of NSW and Vic so people can go to their local track on a Tuesday afternoon. News reporting is pretty sketchy though. As an example, we will tell you that one day there was a headline about storms battering Central USA. When you read the article though, you realized that the storms were actually in Honduras and Guatemala… i.e., Central America! They just pulled the text off a wire service, read it, misunderstood it, and wrote a really bad headline. We can’t stop getting this paper though, because it is the best way to find out about local happenings (shows in nearby towns, what store is opening in the mall, when the dog races are….) and is usually good for a daily chuckle.
The Australian? That’s a whole different story. This rag is dangerously conservative, to the point that we feel bad supporting Rupert Murdoch; but, well, it is probably the best in the country in terms of national coverage. You just have to recognize the bias and read through it. Dan, however, did almost call and cancel it one day when he read an editorial about how the gay marriage debate in Australia had to keep going. The editorial stated that the discussion had to continue, even if/when the laws change; even though they admitted that allowing same-sex marriage was probably (!) the right thing to do, that doesn’t mean you should just forget about a tradition that has served everyone (!) so well up to now. Oh yeah, served ‘everyone’ except those who can’t get married, or who have friends and family who can’t get married. This editorial was right around the time that we were missing the wedding of two good friends back home (and the Canadian government had recently decided that all people deserved equal rights!), so this story hit a nerve. Really hard not to cancel the rag, but…well, we need to learn about all aspects of Australia.
So, we’ll continue to fight each morning… against the wrap that stands between us and the news, and against the right-leaning perspectives that often shape the views expressed in the papers. London, Edmonton, Wagga… there’s lots of work to do, no matter where you live in the world.
I don’t understand why you don’t get either the Sydney Morning Herald or its Victorian cousin, the Melbourne Age. The Fairfax papers aren’t perfect but are markedly less conservative than the Australian – and aren’t owned by Rupert Murdoch!