For Australian journalists of a certain age, it’s a name that is sure to trigger memories. Bob Bottom was the fearless journalist who exposed the stranglehold unions had on Broken Hill and then went on to become a pivotal figure in The Age Tapes affair. Later, Bob’s feats were captured in a Sun Books publication called Without Fear or Favour.
Back when I was eighteen, and starting out on my journalism career, Bob Bottom’s book had just rolled off the presses. This same period also brought forth the Age Charter of Independence – again promoting journalism without fear or favour. Armed with this kind of reading material, cub reporters of my era could look to these examples of unbiased journalism and attempt to emulate them. While it’s tempting to say that era of reporting is gone, I don’t believe this is so. I still believe fearless journalists are out there – we need only look as far as the Indianapolis Star and the Larry Nassar scandal to find modern-day parallels.
The Hope Nest, then, is a retrospective take on journalists who aspire to be fearless but don’t always live up to the brief. The protagonist, Camilla Crest, is certainly no Bob Bottom. But at least she’s reading the right kind of book. But was my memory of that book correct? Could I be sure, without re-reading it to check?
Finding Without Fear or Favour in 2019, thirty five years after it was published, wasn’t easy. But internet tentacles reached deep, and soon I was snatching it out of my mail box, grinning with delight. There were so many rich asides I’d forgotten about when I first read it in 1984. And now I could include these in The Hope Nest.
Ah, the joys of research, when it stokes the warm fires of nostalgia!