There’s a cheque sitting on my desk – made out to me from News International. But if you think I’m going to tell you about a great dilemma or some kind of scandal, you’re wrong.
It’s actually a very ordinary – even boring – thing. I’m a freelance journalist so, if I’m doing it right, lots of different organisations pay me… including News International. I also take money from, among others, the Mirror Group, Associated Press, STV, Magicalia and the Express.
I love being a journalist. I’ve been doing it, or a variation of it, for 20 years and I still do. It’s exciting and creative. It’s also an important thing – no, not necessarily any of the things I’ve been working on lately, but, in general, the media – Forth Estate, if you will – is essential to democracy.
As the online din increases and “crowd-sourced” news might suggest that the role of the traditional media is much reduced. But how do you know what you read on a blog or Twitter is true?
Clearly, phone hacking is very wrong. No one I know – and that includes lots of tabloid journalists – thinks it’s acceptable. Most of us are sickened and angry that someone should do such a thing and that we should get lumped in with them.
I’m also upset by the fact that a great many people are very quick to crow about the demise of a historic newspaper – and appear to hope for a similar fate for other organs.
Now, if you could just leave your high horse in the stable over there with the others I have a couple of points to make.
Journalists serve an important function in finding and reporting corruption, hypocrisy and other foul-smelling things in high places. Who else is going to?
Journalists have sources inside organisations who tell them what’s going on. Some are motivated by money, but most just want the world to know what’s happening. It’s also known as whistle-blowing which is seen to be a Good Thing.
To a degree, the private lives of sporting heroes and other celebrities are newsworthy because a, in some cases they influence young and vulnerable people and b, they earn a lot of money from advertising and sponsorship because of the image they have. Politicians likewise cannot expect standards of behavior from the public they can’t attain themselves.
Some news organisations – such as the News of The World –
do did trade in stories about the private lives of ordinary people in public life. I’ve never been terribly fond of those tales. You know the kind of thing, city father books for op to turn into a mother…
Newspapers are businesses – they have to be filled with things that make people buy them. If no one buys or reads, there isn’t any point, is there?
Often a story is broken by a tabloid is then followed up and much chattered about elsewhere. For example, I’ve seen a story broken by the Panther of News (a proud tabloid journalist) in his newspaper one day then reported on and discussed the next day elsewhere. He scooped them.
Good journalists are experts at the law and have no desire to be on the wrong end of it. They know what they are and aren’t allowed to do. It’s not just about moral compass, although that comes into it, breaking the rules incurs stiff penalty.
If you never read a newspaper, watch the news on telly, listen to the radio, read the news online or read a gossip magazine, you can sit down. The rest of you, where do you think the stories come from? Who researched and asked the questions? Who knocked on the doors? That’s right, journalists.