Fleeing a failed engagement in the Australian high country, Miles Black finds that his limited experience on a country newspaper will only get him a job on a suburban weekly giveaway, the Koala Bay Bugle. But newspapers are what the reporters make of them and Koala Bay has its news moment, if only incompetent administrators would not insist on getting in the way. Unfortunately,the beauteous Anne is unimpressed with reporters on obscure newspapers.
Miles Black walked several paces from his battered utility before he realised he had absent mindedly put on his hat when getting out of the vehicle. It was a broad-brimmed akubra scarred by work on his parents' stud in Victoria's high country. Back home he would have kept on walking, but he was wearing his dark, pin-striped suit, white shirt and red tie and he was in Sydney for an interview. A hat did not fit the picture. He went back and dropped it in the utility, and then had the usual trouble closing the passenger side door. Rust had eaten into the door catch which meant that the door had to be lifted and slammed at the same time to close properly. Apart from a second-hand computer and a few clothes left at a hostel, it was all Miles owned. He locked the door again and walked around to his interview.
The headquarters of the Bugle Newspaper Group was a long, two-storey brick building set back from a main road - a busy one - in one of Sydney's far northern suburbs. The building was built beside a natural, sharp drop in the ground, so that visitors could walk along a short footpath, past the modest sign saying 'Bugle Group', through double glass doors into the reception area at one end of the building without realising that they were on the first floor, which was reserved for administration and sales. The reporters were kept on the ground floor, well away from any visitors.
Having seen plenty of young reporters came and go the receptionist barely glanced at Miles. If she had looked a little longer she would have seen a well-built man in his early twenties of medium height, with sun tanned face and clear eyes. She might also have noticed a firm jaw and dark eyes and judged him "passable": and an even closer inspection would have revealed a hint of bow leg in his stance. He had, in fact, been brought up working with horses. As it was she checked her list and told him to wait, pointing to one of the green vinyl chairs by the wall. There was a stairway to the lower level on the other side of the entrance hall, which Miles thought led to both the reporters and the printing presses, for he knew the Bugle Group still did its own printing.
He killed time by inspecting a series of framed front pages of various Bugle Group newspapers set on the wall above the receptionist's head. He was too far away to read the stories on the pages but on one, for the McCarrs Regional Bugle, he could see the headline 'Residents flee' with a dramatic picture of burning forest beside it. Another for the South Forest Bugle, which serviced the suburb in which the Bugle Group headquarters stood, had the headline 'Local musos win through' with a picture of a school band with their instruments poised. There were plenty of front pages. For alone among the local newspaper groups the Bugle had refused to amalgamate its papers when the local councils were merged in Sydney many years previously. Instead of the informal industry rule of one paper per local council, there were four for the City of McCarrs - the McCarrs Regional Bugle, the South Forest Bugle, the Smith's Creek Bugle and the Brown Beach Bugle. Instead of having one local paper for the City of Lovett Bay, the Bugle group had three and so on. This meant Bugle papers were tiny with two or perhaps even one, lone reporter, instead of the teams of reporters found elsewhere in Sydney.