The media
heavies who have converged on Beaconsfield are treating residents
either with a) the utmost respect or b) scant regard for basic human
decency, depending on who you talk to. The truth is probably somewhere
in between.

A local businessman and resident called John told me
he had chased at least a dozen media vehicles from a private easement
between his home and the back of the mine complex. ‘’I think some of
them were planning on camping out there in hire vans or something,’ he
said.’

John,
who retired to the town from Queensland several years ago for the quiet
life, says now he’s “chasing reporters out of the bush at 10.30pm.”

One television correspondent who described himself as “an old war
horse” said he had been on site for a week and was far from impressed
with some media outlets. ‘’Sunday lunch time was really quiet with just
a few of us here and then on Monday, after they found out they were
alive, the place turned into a bloody circus. The outlets who have just
arrived are covering old news ground and running around like storm
troopers.”

“Only
this morning a photographer accosted members of the Russell family as
they went shopping, they can’t walk down the main street of their home
town anymore … it’s a disgrace.”

As he speaks, two news
choppers start circling the mine. “I mean just look at that,” pointing
skywards, “I know they need some new footage but all that’s doing is
annoying locals. These are good people, who I have come to know, I mean
a couple of them have even been bringing us home cooked meals.”

The
local cricket ground has become a temporary airport housing four
helicopters with a chartered aircraft circling overhead. “The story is
920m below us not up there, it’s just too much. Things haven’t got much
better since Princess Naomi [Today Tonight host Naomi Robson] arrived either.”

Host of A Current Affair,
Tracy Grimshaw, said it was disappointing some of the media were
annoying the locals. “I can’t speak on behalf of other media outlets,
but we are treating the story with respect. We are here until they
bring those guys up so it’s important we have a good relationship with
the community,” she said. “This is a bit like Thredbo in the sense
it’s a tight-knit community that isn’t used to the media spotlight
while waiting to bring one of their own out.

“Yesterday I had to tell a cameraman to stop filming me putting my
make-up on outside the mine before a broadcast. That’s not news, the
story here is all about those two guys below us. I think part of the
problem is that there are so many journalists, I mean we are just one part of the Channel Nine coverage. It’s becoming a big competition between networks to find a new story here.”

Ms Grimshaw said criticism of ACA‘s
coverage on Monday – the program followed its mine broadcast with a
story on cellulite – was probably justified. “There is only one host of
the show and some stories were pre-programmed, we will be having a
discussion about that when we get back home.”

Over at Today Tonight,
host Naomi Robson said the story had created logistical problems for
Channel Seven. “Most of our equipment is wireless broadband and that
doesn’t work at the mine site.” The interview is temporarily halted as
Ms Robson accosts one of her “helpers”: “What do you mean the
tele-prompter isn’t working, I don’t care if it has to come from
Sydney, fix it.”

Standing in front of a foot-high pile of empty
coffee cups, Ms Robson said that coming up with new angles was just a
matter of applying your brain. “It’s a moving feast and the longer this
thing goes on the harder it will become to find a new angle.”

Other
journalists have criticised Ms Robson for her “princess” demeanour,
which saw her sit out one press conference so she could get her hair
done. Our self-described “old war horse” said it was obvious some TV
presenters had little idea of what they were up against. “This thing is
happening in regional Tasmania, they should be happy the only café in
town makes a good latte. As for expecting wireless broadband to work
they must be joking.”

But Ms Robson said her team was totally
committed to providing quality coverage of the rescue. “We are working
in shifts around the clock and will continue to do so until this is
over.” Some journalists listening to the interview took this to mean
Ms Robson had other people working around the clock to make her look
good.

The final word on the rescue coverage goes to the local
hairdresser. Jeanette Savage said she had even had TV crews in her
salon. “I know they are just doing their job, but what news story are
they going to find in my salon? They must be getting desperate.”