Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Royal North Shore Hospital has been copping heaps of flack over the past week or so. I know because I've been listening to 2UE. But until I read Rosemarie Milsom's gripping account of her own miscarriage at that august institution, I didn't know how much pain can hide behind a headline.

My exposure to 'shock jock' ('tabloid' in radioland) opinion started when I was trying to navigate my way to the Westmead Coroners Court last Friday at around 9am. The time as well as the place was unusual; normally by then I'm securely ensconced behind my keyboard fuelling the hearth.

On air was John Laws and he told us that the NSW premier, Morris Iemma, had deliberately underfunded RNSH because of its 'silvertail' cachet: it nestles in among the multi-million-dollar houses that run over the hills to the north of this city like ranks of perfume bottles, giving off the scent of a secure retirement.

As I started to read Milsom's piece, the thought that was uppermost was: how did she do this? It's beautifully-written, engrossing, colourful, dramatic, bristling with talent. There's no way a regular Sydney Morning Herald reader could write like this, I thought.

'Continued Page 4', I read as the RNSH nurse hands her a plastic '...'?

Usually, I don't flip the sheet at this point. I like to browse, and so I read a couple of other items on page one, pretty much all of pages two and three, and am preparing to skip the sequel when I recall how impressed I'd been with the prequel. '...container and asked me to give a sample etc.' I read.

The surprise (though not really, considering the quality of the writing) lies at the bottom of the third column on page four. Milsom is editor of Sunday Extra, the supplementary mag that comes with The Sun-Herald. I should have known: a journo.

Journalists have a pretty low ranking in the loveable stakes, as my episode of Number3 (Channel Ten, 8.30pm) tells me. In this case, a city journo has it out with an FBI agent. Both are women. Women battle with their tongues, men with their fists.

But this piece ('Painful memories of losing a small, perfectly formed son') shows what all women share, and it's something we guys can only sit back and watch. Or, even better, sit up and provide back rubs, if that's what they need to get through labour. It's truly a miracle. And Milsom shows us what a journalist, and only a journalist, can do to bring the absence of a miracle to life.

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