Monday, 17 August 2009

On a scale of one to arsehole - what kind of boss am I?

It's a fair question.
For some months now I have told you what I expect of a good reporter but not really what standards I set for myself or how my team are treated.
I can't accurately say whether I am a bad boss or a good boss, as, in the main, it is subjective. Depending on the reporter's own expectations and ambitions and direction they wish to take, it will ultimately alter their view of the way I work.
I am a hard news journalist, and I imagine I always will be. Nothing gets me more excited than a grisly murder or a disaster. Sick, yes. Realistic, definitely.
I am undoubtedly, at times, a mean bastard, unfair and rude.
But I would not let my reporter's do anything I have not already done or would be willing to do again.
When we are short staffed (which is often) I muck in. I come in early to do downpages. I make calls to contacts for stories. I deal with the mundane drivel (like uploading to the web) to free my reporters up to get me decent stories. I spend an hour a night reading through our web comments to get leads. I scour the local blogs and councillor's web sites. I still go to some council meetings and meet with as many players as I can to build good relations.
I do door knocks at weekends to get a head start when reporters are busy.
I will sit down with my team and go through their copy. I will offer them advice on getting pics, writing features and building relationships with councillors.
If they are having a phone call they can't deal with from an angry punter, I will get them to kick it up to me.
I will even help them with their CV if they want to move on or give them contacts to flog their stories to the nationals. God forbid, if they ever want to catch a train down south and work on the London papers, I will tell them what, and who, they need to know.
I let my reporters have time off for doctors, dentists, driving tests and other things beginning with d without making them fill out a holiday form.
I buy biscuits and cakes on stressful days and I let reporters go early on quiet days. I back my team up to the hilt when it comes to readers' complaints, legals and PCCs. I keep them off the radar of my bosses.
As long as the stories are coming in, I don't mind if the reporter comes in late or negotiates a morning off for a night job.
I make sure reporters take their lieu time and holidays. I realise their pay is shite and let them blag as many freebies as we can using the paper's name - including press trips abroad.
I buy the first round in the pub and, fuck me, I even make the tea (sometimes).
But to get you also have to give and I am a hard taskmaster. Chair spinners, clock watchers and bullshitters get short shrift.
My only goal is to bring out the best paper we possibly can. My motto is - get it first, get it right and get it all.
I truly care about what I do and my expectations of what we can do are higher than many of the bosses in local papers.
I give praise when it is due, but equally I give bollockings when a reporter drops a clanger.
I realise no-one is superhuman but to bring out the very best in reporters, I must push them.
If every time you fucked up you got a pat on the head and a 'never mind' would that make you worried about doing it again?
I have lost my temper and I have been an arsehole, I accept that.
If that makes me a bad boss, a dinosaur or a relic, then so be it.
But understand that sometimes, when stories are falling to pieces, legals are dropping like rain or deadlines are looming, I am equally as terrified of doing this job as you are.
It's just I'm not allowed to show it.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

It's called a MOBILE phone for a reason

One of my biggest annoyances is a reporter's basic inability to answer their mobile phone when it rings.
I sometimes have a subs query, an urgent message from a dying relative or I may need to send you to an address early when I get a sniff of a police raid.
So, pardon me for working, I may need to call you on your mobile phone out of hours or during your lunch break.
Ring, ring, ring....message. Ring, ring, ring.....message. Ring, ring, ring.....message. Then straight to message (as they turn the phone off). I text the little fuckers to ring me back asap.
Sometimes I get a call back within an hour but often, especially at weekends, I get nothing until they walk into the office on Monday morning.
Their excuse for ignoring three messages, eight missed calls and ten increasingly abusive texts - "I don't work at weekends".
One of the little turds told me at interview they wanted to end up on the nationals, so I asked whether they thought turning their mobile off when they worked for the bigs would be acceptable.
"Oh, I wouldn't do it then," they tittered. Then don't do it to me, you pathetic wanker.
The last thing my national news desk said as you left the office every night was make sure your mobile is on.
It is always on, day and night. And I always answer it, day and night. When it runs out of juice or is another room, I get a feeling of dread that I am missing out on something.
Do you think that reporters in Dunblane, Lockerbie, Hungerford, Soham or Hillsborough knew what was going to happen in their towns?
Of course they didn't.
(And yes, I also realise that in some of these cases reporters were unlikely to have owned mobile phones.)
But something as big as the above events will happen again. And maybe in your patch. After 5.30pm most likely, or even at the weekend.
So the next time your mobile phone rings, pick the fucker up or you may just be hanging up on the biggest story of your career.

Dolly Parton news gathering

Wouldn't it be nice if everything we reported on happened during our contracted working hours - but clearly not during our lunch break.

We could have council meetings timetabled for 10am. Car crashes not before 9am and murders early afternoon please.
Major disasters like rail smashes, plane crashes and psychopathic shooting rampages midweek, thanks, to allow for enough time to follow them up before buggering off to the pub early on Friday afternoon.

Except, as we all know, it ain't like that.
News doesn't sleep and it certainly doesn't allow for our social or family lives nor the fact that sometimes we really don't want to get out of bed at 4am after a call from a police contact.

So why do some reporters today think that somehow they are exempt from working outside of their contracted hours?

Even during interviews I carefully explain the 9-5 day just doesn't happen. At least once a week there will be a night job, lunches are invariably taken at the desk and working late or coming in early on deadline day is the norm.

We try and make back those hours with time in lieu, but generally you will work as and when required.

Lots of nods at interview time, but once their dainty little feet hits the newsroom proper all of a sudden a militant level of clock watching comes into force.

Chairs are spinning at 5.30pm with no thought to ask the news ed if everything is ok. Hour long lunches are taken to the minute and coming in early is only down to public transport not breaking down.

The slack caused by their anally-retentive attitude to contracted hours is taken up by the real reporters in the office. The grafters who do the job because they love it and don't mind working a bit harder for the tales that matter.
It creates division and animosity in the office.

My hands are tied by HR. The hours are the hours, and by forcing them to do extra could lead to claims of constructive dismissal.
And these pedantic fucks are exactly the type who would do it.

To those of you who watch the clock while sitting at your desk, ask yourself why.
I imagine it is because you do not want be - or deserve to be - sitting at that desk.
You clearly have no idea about what the job is about.
You have no passion for news and you are biding the time until you can go into PR at senior level or some other worthless profession.

You are a fucking waste of space.
You make those people working around you work harder to make up for your laziness and lack of commitment.
You are keeping someone who may actually want to do your job from doing your job.

You are a cunt. And I feel like a twat for believing your lying "hard-working" arse during your interview.
Be a man/woman and resign.
Or better still toss yourself in front of a bus because it will be the closest you will ever come to getting your name on the front page of a newspaper.