When a man from accounts started reminiscing about the Ettamogah Pub at a university Christmas Party, I told him I had worked at Australasian Post in the 1980s. He shook his head condescendingly.
"Nah, luv, I think you mean Australia Post."
"I know exactly what I mean and where I worked – Australasian Post Magazine."
The shocked expression was priceless. You get a doctorate in creative writing and no one expects that you might have actually done the most creative writing of all possible – spinning a yarn about stories such as "I live with a punk ghost", or "I want to be buried with my pets", or indeed, writing about a woman who dresses her tree fern stumps as footy heroes. And covering stories that would be at home in any newspaper, such as a day with Federal Police Rottweiler trainers ("Canberra's secret Weapon! Cute – but he's trained to take your arm off!") –possibly the reason I own a Corgi.
I learned the tricks of the trade when accompanying photographers who had to take a detour from my feature photos to shooting the cover photo. Underwear must be taken off an hour before photos to avoid indentations – bra marks are so ugly, and in the days before the Brazilian, the photographer always greeted the girls with "you shaved, luv?" Body make up is very useful, and I have held many light reflectors in my time (good lighting hides a multitude of sins), and stood for hours assisting the photographer as that cover shot was taken. Trust me, I have seen enough string bikinis to last a life time.
But that's not the same as coercing – or assisting – women to pose topless for a paper, is it?
Clementine Ford (dailylife.com.au January 21) disagrees, writing that "[replacing] a fully naked woman in a newspaper with just a mostly naked one is hardly a win, nor is the fact that full breadth of nudity will still be available in a user-pays capacity online."
Why did the cover girls do it? For the same reason journalists wrote about them for the breathless cover blurbs, for the same reason anyone does anything in the media business. We did it for the money, the desire to work our way up to something better, and – ta da! - because it's a job.
Our cover girls no doubt hoped to hit the big time and big money, just like the aspiring glamour models in the UK who hope to crack a gig – and earn a fortune – with lad mags or TV work. Don't put the girls down, though. Were the journalists any better, playing the along with the game as pawns in the media wheel? We all hoped to move on to somewhere that didn't compromise our values and make us sell our souls – the reason so many left the media industry in the end for more palatable work.
BBC news reported that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said editors were free to publish "what they like", however, topless Page Three girls was not "in keeping with the way in which women both want to be and should be represented.
But Clegg should learn to expect the least from the editors of such rags, and ultimately those they report to, and not risk disappointment. Because let's face it, behind every Page Three pair of breasts is a newspaper editor who hasn't a clue how to sail the masthead into the choppy waters of 21st century circulation figures, or find a way to create a modern media business plan. And a newspaper owner who is either asleep at the wheel of this 21st century, or is happy to exploit anyone for a buck.
It's easier for such men to hide behind a naked woman. Always was. Always will be.
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