Friday, 27 February 2009

Old skool/new skool

The old guys - and I am starting to become one - have rose tinted glasses. They were just as lazy, just as sneaky, just as unmotivated, as the young 'uns. In fact, more so. Don't forget these guys (I use the omnisexual version of the word) didn't have a web edition. A lot of them didn't have mobiles. No internet. No extra pressures. No money - admittedly, but only one real job. Write for the newspaper.
They also didn't have the same attitude to lunchtime drinking- or in some cases early morning drinking - as your bosses do now. Rolling in pissed as a fart after lunch (or not rolling in at all) was the norm.
Five decent stories a week, a few down pages, nibs and done. Week's work, roll on the weekend.
Except this doesn't really tell the whole story.
Without the web, without mobiles, without email, journalism changes.
No google alerts for every paper or media outlet that mentions your patch; no emails from charities, companies, sources, spies, press offices or pundits. No way of getting a steer from the desk on a job on your moby. No ability to ping pics from other areas by email. No real way of searching cuttings except for a trip to your own (or more likely) the local reference library.
You relied on three things - ring ins (unlikely) walk-ins (yeah, right) or contacts.
Contacts are king and something young reporters don't yet comprehend. This biz ain't what you know, it's who you know. The more contacts you have the more stories you will get. Full stop.
Someone gets run over? You know a man, who knows a guy, who knows the cousin. A murder? You find his best friend through a pub landlord you know. A guy wins £100k on the lottery? With enough good contacts you will find him/her and hopefully they will end up being a right criminal scrote.
Build up, cultivate and cherish your contacts. Never give them up easy, keep them tight, keep them secret. A good contact can last you a career - they get promotions too. A good PC can become a sublime DCI in a few short years. Councillors become MPs, become government ministers, teachers become heads, soldiers become colonels.
Build a relationship, burn only your bad ones and contacts become a journos greatest asset.
Old skool.


  1. I think the reason "the kids" don't get this is that it sounds about as meritocratic as the football pools. You've worked hard at school, you've chosen a career where you expect to use your brain, but it turns out the key to success is just to know everyone? You get ahead by knowing how to banter about football with some councillor 'til 2am?

    It just sounds crappy and depressing and not very worthwhile, that's all. Kids these days are idealistic - they like to think they're using their brains and "research skills" to understand what others don't.

  2. The concept is simple. If you know everyone in town, you knwo all the stories. Getting as many contacts as you can in town is a stepping stone to knowing everyone in town.
    But what the fuck do I know? You go ahead and reinvent journalism using your 'research skills'. I'll keep calling those people who actually know shit.
    Ps not much evidence of brains in the relentless stream of fucktards who put themselves up for work ex these days.