Monday, 20 July 2009

Things I still love about journalism - part one

It's easy to bitch and moan so I thought I would write about some things that keep me doing this job after nearly twenty years.
Stories - You cannot do this job for two decades if you don't still get a head-crackling, shivery-back thrill about tales, big or small.
I don't care if it's national or local, when a reporter comes in with THAT story which you instantly adore there is no better feeling. Give me pics and I am in hog heaven. It doesn't even have to be a splash.
It could be a great funny three with roller-skating, coffin-dodgers or a super, council bashing page nine that exposes its hypocrisy. As long as it has the elements that make a goodie I am made up.
I am fortunate to work in newspapers that give me that feeling - on a lesser scale - once a week, on a major scale once a month.
God loves a dress up with a fact file.
Being right - Second only to bringing in those stories is getting them spot-on right when everyone else says you are wrong. We have all been there when your splash is getting torn apart by other media, councillors, press officers, whatever.
How sweet is that feeling when the report/inquest/tribunal/court case proves you 100 per cent correct.
Hold fast. Be strong. And make sure you ram it up their arses when you get a result.
One of my oldest splashes was described by a council press officer on the front page of our rivals as 'the greatest work of fiction since Gone With the Wind'.
A week later the council had to finally admit their bullshit when our splash was the lead item on their planning agenda. Boo yah bitches!
That's the power of having a planning officer leaking us the good shit.
Colleagues - I absolutely love other hacks - even the ones I slag off because they are on rival papers.
I love getting drunk and whining and moaning and fighting with them. The one-upmanship when you meet other reporters can be incredible. I love their vanity and insecurity; their naivety and brilliance.
But most of all their commitment and enthusiasm for the job. A bunch of good hacks can sniff out the part-timer (wannabe press officer) and they are quickly shunned from the herd.
I am still in contact with a massive number of the people I have worked with. It's that sort of club. Whether I see them once a year or text them for a favour after five years we still remember the times we had.
Some of my very best friends came from the first job I ever had. I was best man at one of their weddings. I lived with two of them. I take the piss out of another about their former social habits on a regular basis.
Success - Back in the day I won some awards. It was fun at the time. But so what.
I get a far bigger thrill in seeing my troops doing well. Whether it be one of my former juniors ploughing a massive furrow in the nationals, my top reporter winning a national award or even one ex-scallywag getting a better job in the same company as me. (Damn him).
I get a buzz. I hope that my influence, in some tiny way, has got them to the position they are now (mainly shouting - no touching, honest).
Community correspondents write utter shite - I have never been so pleased to see the utter twaddle our new army of community correspondents has produced.
Thank fuck for the untrained idiot. Most of it is total undecipherable wank. The best is already a blogger which stories we are already nicking.
The reason for my relief? Your management and mine wanted community correspondents to replace most of you with these free 'reporters'.
I laughed my arse off when the MD blew a gasket when he discovered they were 'writing about their fucking holidays'. He was fit to shit when he realised plan A was reduced to a huge heap of utter toss.
Being a boss - It really does make life easier. There is nothing worse than being a trainee/minion and having demands placed upon you when you really don't feel like it due to illness/hangover/relationship breakdown or a general can't-be-fucked-attitude. Basically you have no choice. Do it or incur the wrath of your editor.
But being a boss means the majority of tasks can be delegated to the overworked or ignored (due to deadline). I have a massive in-tray that gets palmed off on a regular basis or binned if I think the person will also forget.
Don't get me wrong, I rarely sit around the office doing fuck all for long. But as the old saying goes - 'Why have a dog and bark yourself'.
Post bag - This should really be number one because without the justification of a letter box filled with hand-written notes telling you whether you are right, wrong, or racist this job isn't worthwhile.
Feedback is brilliant, even if it is telling you that you are shit.
Out of all the papers I bring out, one has a bag of letters you would not believe. Each week we have at least 15 genuine letters from real, unique people. Not charities, or political parties or the local green-crayon-scrawling nutbags (we get those on top).
My council press officer often asks me how many I make up. None, is the answer.
When we have a big issue the letter writers double. I love it.
It's so much better to know you had a person write out a three page letter, stick it in an envelope, pay for a stamp and post it within a day of reading your paper, than it is to read: 'Councilhater146' post 'Typical Labour Nonsense. Only UKIp has the answer. If only we were out of europe' (sic) on your website.
Variety - It truly is the spice of life. This is the job which can never get boring. While you know what your day entails in terms of copy flow and the basic structure, you never know what people are going to do to themselves.
While experience enables our papers to cover almost anything you can never predict when news wil happen or what it will be.
After all, do you think the local papers in Dunblane, Lockerbie, Hungerford or Soham sat there and predicted their small towns were about to become synonymous with major tragedies.
News can happen anywhere or anytime.
It's what gets me out of bed in the morning (or the middle of the night on occasion.)

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