Sep 26, 2007

Needing to Wendt

I went to the launch of a new Breastscreen Queensland ad campaign this morning. Worth $1.5 million over three years, it aims to increase the number of Queensland women over 50 having regular mammograms. After doing research in their key 50-69 demographic, the state government picked veteran journalist Jana Wendt to be the "face" of the campaign (despite the fact that by my reasoning they should be looking at another part of the anatomy entirely).

I saw Jana as I walked in. She was standing in a corner, reading her notes; her elegant size 8 figure impeccably clad in a tailored black suit and crisp white shirt. Her jawbones would slice diamonds; her cheekbones cut through steel like a knife through gravy. Her hair, far from the big black bob of the A Current Affair years, was perfectly cut and freshly styled; it framed her face like a painting. Her simple yet impossibly glamourous reading glasses were poised so close to the tip of her nose I feared they would fall off; yet there they remained, implacable, not daring to slip and defy the Grace of Jana.

As the journalists gathered and set up equipment, and we waited for the Premier to arrive, she stood quietly near the refreshment table, chatting to Breastscreen staff and re-checking those notes. I longed to approach her, but what would I say?

"Hello, Ms Wendt. My name is Natalie. I'm a journalist too, and you've always been a role model...."

"Hello, Ms Wendt. People always told me I was going to be on the telly and be the next Jana Wendt... I'm still waiting for it to happen, ha ha..."

"Hello, Ms Wendt. I have to ask - what did you really think when Marg Downey imitated you on Fast Forward?"

While pondering my options, Anna Bligh arrived, and without any hesitation, made straight for Jana on the other side of the room. They shook hands and spoke warmly. Damn! I thought. That's the kind of style I need. Enthusiastic, yet still classy. I guess that kind of poise must come with knowing you're the most powerful person in the state.

They began the media conference, and Jana spoke clearly, concisely, with perfect intonation and minimal "ums". Note to self: you see? That's how you get to be Jana Wendt. No "um"-ing. Once finished, she returned to the fold of Breastscreen Queensland staff, as the Premier took questions on other topics.

I'm not sure what happened in the end. I had been standing up the back, my vision half-obscured by a pillar. I had to wait for various cameramen and journos to shift it before I could reclaim my microphone (which had run out of batteries, thankfully near the end of the conference). When I turned back after packing my kit, Jana was gone.

Gone! One of the most respected and credible journalists in Australia - gone! Vanished before I could work up the nerve to say hello. She will remain, until the next alignment of the stars puts me within gawping distance again, that glamourous, elegant figure - the Jackie Onassis of the Australian broadcast media. Mysterious, untouchable, unknowable. I could never compare to her physically. But I will start working on my "um"-ing.

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