20 July 2010
An election campaign is nothing if not unpredictable. I was reminded of that this morning while live on air.
We received the magic text message at 8.38am.
“Hi everyone. There will be a press conference on level 25 (alto level) at 10am this morning. After that we will be departing hotel. Cheers Nicole”
No further information. That's pretty much how the drip feed works around here.
We had to do a live cross at 9am. Then run back upstairs, pack our bags, back downstairs, check out and back up to level 25 to set up for the news conference. It's amazing how fast 1 hour 22 minutes can evaporate.
Since the press conference was in the same hotel as Abbott was staying, we figured he would be pretty much on time. So Sky wanted me to talk live to camera until the news conference started.
We had what's called a ‘mini-link' set up on the balcony. It sends the pictures and sound back to the link truck, is parked in the street, which sends the pictures to the big telephone tower in the city, which in turn sends the pictures to a satellite to Sky News in Sydney and then out to your Foxtel box at home.
But we had to reserve that pathway for the announcement from Abbott.
Enter the ‘streambox'. This is relatively new technology. Basically, the camera connects to a laptop, which converts the image and sound to a ‘streaming' file, which then sends the pictures over a wireless internet connection to be picked up by Sky News and sent for broadcast.
It's a really handy piece of technology when you can't get a link truck out in time, or in our case, when the link truck line is already being used. Problem is, it's notoriously unstable. When there's a lot of mobile phone activity (as there always is in the press pack) the image starts to break up.
Regardless, we got set up with about a minute to spare and I start talking to camera. One minute, two minutes, four minutes, five minutes passes and still no Abbott. Kieran Gilbert crossed to Ashley Gillon as the streambox started to falter. Eight minutes and he was back to me. 10, 11, 12 minutes.
That is an eternity, filling time on air.
Finally he comes in and I naturally report that he has entered the room and is about to start. And the cheeky bugger starts his press conference by teasing my line about him entering the room. He got a good laugh.
So did Joe Hockey, when he compared Labor's record on surpluses to Paris Hilton's celibacy. No one thought anything of it until 2UE's Latika Bourke pointed out that it was dangerous to use a woman's sexuality for political point-scoring (especially if you are Tony Abbott). Personally, I didn't think there was anything in it.
Less than two hours later, Abbott was again reminded of the perils of unpredictability. He was touring the shopping strip at East Ringwood, in the marginal seat of Deakin, starting off at a fruit and veg shop. Donning an apron, Abbott hammed it up good and proper for the cameras. Perfect fodder for the TV news. Much more so than he had in mind.
It turns out the owner of the shop arrived illegally by boat several decades ago and was concerned about Tony Abbott's pledge to “stop the boats”.
These meet and greets are incredibly stage managed and confected.
But just like a live cross, you never really know what's going to happen.
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