A blogging friend recently compared plumbers with politicians, journalists, sex-offenders and bankers in the scheme of detritus of life.
Given that my partner does plumbing work as part of his multi-skilled toolbox and I’m a trained and qualified journalist, that’s something of a double whammy.
Personally I would add lawyers, medics and dentists to the list, although naturally I would remove journalists.
Whatever happened to used-car salespeople? They used to be the absolute measure of shady and unethical dealing. Still are in Gib but that’s another story.
It is fair to say that some journalists are bad. Unethical. After the glory. What drives journalists is not so much the money but the fame. It is an incredibly competitive industry. It is unbelievably difficult to get into, and for the majority of journos, involves working long hours for low wages.
Some of us are qualified. In law, public administration, shorthand and practical journalism in my case. Others take degrees in multi-media journalism. At the end of the day you need to know how to ask questions, put a story together, and not fuck it up with a load of errors or bring a libel suit down on your company.
In Sydney, my partner met the editor of the local Reader’s Digest and mentioned I was a journalist. I dutifully went off to meet him and discussed writing a story.
Except it wasn’t writing a story at all. It was visiting an area to basically fill in the gaps of a pre-written story and write Sydney where the original post said Los Angeles. All Reader’s Digest stories had to be the same. You write about tiger on the rampage in India, you have to write about tiger on the rampage in California, or in my case Sydney.
Tiger on the rampage wasn’t the actual story I was commissioned to ‘write’ but it might as well have been.
I went out, did some interviews, wrote up the story. Not good enough. I’d rebelliously changed the text to reflect the actual story and hadn’t managed to find enough tigers on the rampage. Well tough shit, because that wasn’t true. There were no tigers on the rampage. I chucked the job.
I’m not willing to make up stories to fit with a pre-set mould.
I was ordered to go and do a story about violence on a council estate in the UK. I knocked on loads of doors and no-one would confirm there was any violence.
What do you write? Residents are so terrified of repercussions that they won’t speak to a reporter about alleged violence?
Or just go back to the news editor and say, no-one would confirm this story so I’m not writing it?
I didn’t write the story.
I was sent to a council meeting about poll tax (local taxation for non-Brit readers which is based on properties, except the poll tax was based on people, hence the name). I sat in the press gallery. Someone came up to me who I didn’t know and confided that she wasn’t actually a reporter. She was a political activist and wanted to disrupt the meeting at a later point.
I wasn’t the local council police, so I let it go. Plus there would be more of a story if she did disrupt the meeting, which she did with a couple of colleagues. They were obviously escorted out at that point.
Back in the newsroom one of my colleagues argued with me because I hadn’t informed on them as not being genuine journalists. That is just not my job. I was there to report not to breach someone’s confidence. One of the old-fashioned ethics about being a journalist is that you don’t disclose your sources if they have told you something in confidence. One crime reporter I used to know went to prison because she refused to reveal information to the police.
Every trade, craft or profession has their own code of ethics.
Back to the press gallery, or rather the newsroom. The same colleague wanted me to refer to the protesters as a mob or ragamuffins. I thought that was a judgemental and political comment and refused to write that. The news editor, who happened to be sleeping with him, finally came down on my side.
So three examples of ethical journalism on my part, or so I like to think.
I have been screwed by a crap lawyer, treated by bad dentists, and worked with poor medics and lying politicians and civil servants.
As for construction, my overall view is that the worst are joiners who generally move onto general building. Followed by painters, half of whom don’t know one end of a paintbrush from another.
I do however, take exception to being likened to a sex offender. And bankers, and politicians come to that. Like every trade, there are some good people in there and some bad. Some break the law.