A couple of months ago while covering the fuel shortage for work, I had very strange interaction with a man.
Now, before I go on, I’m not getting into the semantics of whether or not there was a fuel shortage, whether it was caused by reporting or whatever. I do not have the energy or inclination to have that particular debate.
So, there I am stood on a forecourt speaking to drivers, all of whom are queuing to get fuel when a man approached me, and the following conversation occurred…
MAN: “It’s all a conspiracy theory this. There is no fuel shortage, and the media are all part of the conspiracy”.
ME INTERNALLY: OH, DEEP FUCKING JOY
ME: “How is it?” – I genuinely couldn’t work out where this conversation was going…
MAN: “It’s to get us all to get electric cars. It’s a conspiracy and you’re part of it”.
ME: “Mate – you see that car there, it’s mine. It’s petrol. What benefit am I getting?”.
MAN: “You’ll be being blackmailed with an electric vehicle”.
ME INTERNALLY: WOW!!!
I was pretty stumped at this point. In the end, I laughed and said “well, I hope it’s a red one”.
Now this interaction really stood out.
He wasn’t aggressive, he was quite polite, that made a nice change.
This isn’t out of the ordinary, I have been shouted on many occasions while trying to do my job.
It’s always, always middle-aged men which makes me wonder why they’re all so mad that they feel the need to shout at women on the street. Were they not hugged enough as children or something? If anyone can enlighten me, I’m all ears.
This conversation stood out because quite honestly it is the most bat shit crazy conversation I have ever had with a member of the public and like most journalists I’ve had many conspiracy theories levelled at me, especially over the past few years.
I know my profession is far from perfect. I know the actions of some journalists have left an unpleasant taste in the mouth. I know there’s been criminal activity in some quarters, I know some papers are quite clear when it comes to political allegiance, and I know phone hacking took place.
But to tar us all with the same brush is unfair, lazy and lacks imagination.
There are so many myths surrounding my profession. I’ve wanted to write and dispel the most common of them for a while, I’m writing this as I prepare for my return to work after the Christmas break, I’m bracing myself for another interesting year. So buckle up, here’s an unflinching and honest reality check…..
I have crawled across more pavements dodging chewing gum than I care to think about.
I have stood in storms and flood waters, dressed like a giant condom right across the Northwest.
I’ve been grabbed.
I’ve been called every name under the sun by the EDL.
I’ve got up in the middle of the night to go and stand on the streets reporting.
I’ve sat in offices overnight working on elections praying at some point I can get my head down for 20 minutes under a desk.
I’ve sat in offices that have been flooded by a toilet (every bit as grim as it sounds) and at desks where an overhead pipe has leaked all over it (probably dangerous).
I’ve been kicked out of an Oly Murs book signing by a bouncer despite me standing exactly where he told me to.
I’ve sat and stood in some incredibly grim and smelly places.
I promise you, my friends. It is not glamourous.
We’re all paid a fortune…
Now to clarify, I do alright now.
Am I earning hundreds of thousands? No, nowhere near.
I accepted many years ago that I am never going to be rich beyond my wildest dreams in this job and that’s okay, that’s kind of the trade-off I accept to be able to do something I enjoy.
It’s taken me a long time to get to where I am.
My first salaries were, to be quite brutal, derisory.
Considering there are legal ramifications to what we do, that we can be sued, and, in my case, have had responsibility for ensuring other people are legally sound on the airwaves and Ofcom compliant, some of the salaries I’ve accepted in the past have been insulting for the level of responsibility that is expected in return…and that’s before we think about putting ourselves in dangerous situations.
I feel this is a subject that’s skirted around, anyone heading into this line of work needs to accept that for the majority, the roads will not be paved with gold.
Our favourite past time is “fear mongering”…..
Every Sunday night at around 8pm, after I’ve had my tea and before I sit and relax with a small end of weekend tipple, I limber up, do some stretches, warm up my voice with a few scales and practice how to stir fear for the week ahead….
Scott sits and marks me on the fear factor. He’ll give me ratings out of ten on how well I’m doing in making him feel nervous, I have high standards, so this rehearsal goes until I reach 10 out of 10 and I know I’m ready for the week ahead.
Occasionally I’ll repeat the exercise mid-week, I don’t want to be lagging come Thursday and Friday…
Sound extreme? What can I say, I’m all about the fear.
We’re all part of a propaganda machine….
Ah, the one that’s levelled at us every day throughout this blasted pandemic.
At this point, no one and I mean no one is enjoying reporting on covid.
I don’t understand what people think we’re getting out of this; our lives have been affected too.
I’ve seen claims of broadcasters and journalists being bribed; I must keep missing hand out days.
We deal in fact; we report what is happening, we question and probe those facts and hold those in charge to account.
In my personal experience I have never been told what to cover or to treat anybody favourably.
Of course, there are rules around court cases – proving we’ve been fair with election coverage is right royal pain in the arse complete with spreadsheets and timings, so everyone has had the same crack of the whip.
This one blags my head the most because at the same time as being accused of acting as a propaganda machine for this right wing government, we’re also on a fairly regular basis repeatedly called woke lefties…..I simply can’t square this circle – how can we be both?
Bulletin reading question “What do you do for the rest of the hour?”…
If I’m on desk, I spend the majority of my days with my feet up, brew in hand, chilling out, until the top of the hour approaches at which point, I’ll get up and lope into the news booth, throw the mic fader open and read out loud for a couple of minutes before going back to relaxing.
Sounds ideal? Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is.
Unfortunately, my news bulletin does not magically appear in a script.
No little news pixies edit my clips, write my stories, put calls in, update stories, make sense of the thousands of pieces of information that come in on a constant stream, or decide what it makes it into the precious amount time allotted for the news. It’s all done by whoever is delivering that bulletin with the help of some cracking reporters who are out interviewing and finding stories.
We report things, the second we’re told something…..
Journalists aren’t your auntie Pat on Facebook who hears one statement and publishes it straight away, I mean that’s a recipe for disaster.
Stories need standing up, they need verifying.
Anything you tell us will end up on the news….
I have watched people who have just found out what I do during a conversation physically step back and mentally check whether they’ve said something they shouldn’t.
Yeah, it’s not that interesting.
Not everything is newsworthy.
We all know each other…
I went to Cyprus in 2020 and we got talking to another couple, I made the mistake of being honest about I do for living….
The man then proceeded to tell me in great detail for the next half an hour just how much he hates James O’Brien…he was part of a Facebook group and everything.
Now, by the way he was talking it was like I knew James O’Brien personally, talked to him and had ample opportunity to pass on his critique of him….I don’t, never spoken to him and highly doubt he’d be arsed by this assessment.
What really baffled me was that he seemed to think I should care that he hated James O’Brien…I did not, each to their own.
We all know what’s going to happen….
Aye yeah, full of foresight me.
My magic 8 ball gives me all the answers.
Those briefings we’ve been subjected to, I find out what’s going to be said at the same time as you.
That can be said for the majority journalists up and down the country, we aren’t all lobby journalists – thank God.
We’re on the scene in next to no time…
Please…..have you ever tried to get from Lancashire to Liverpool or anywhere in the North West in next to no time?
I lay the blame at the door of Coronation Street for this one and the number of storylines they’ve had where a pack of journos materialise out of nowhere. I don’t know what Manchester this press pack is driving around but it’s certainly not the same one as me
Logistics, negotiating traffic and finding out where the nearest toilet is, are probably 60% of the job.
Will eat anything..
Actually, that is true.
So, what is the truth?
The truth is most of us are working across the country in areas that don’t always get the coverage they deserve, finding and telling the stories that matter to people in that area, uncovering issues that affect you directly or finding stories that interest you.
They’re telling stories outside of the Westminster bubble, outside the London bubble and speaking to real people.
And that’s worth bearing in mind.
P.S That brand new electric vehicle still hasn’t turned up….disappointing
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm