Flat Earth News

What can I do??

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Tagged: / Posted: 15 July 2008

ARGH!! OK, I read the book, I realise what is happening, but what can I do? I am just starting out in my career as a journalist and the world I am entering is far removed from the world I was expecting. My first few days in a regional (broadcast) newsroom were as follows: arrive, be handed a stack of the mornings papers. I am told "look through for anything interesting especially if its local". thats right, the broadcast media looking for stories from the papers! so, after reading through the papers I am asked to a meeting to discuss the stories for the first bulletin of the day. the meeting went roughly like: "I am really annoyed about such and such, is anyone else? maybe I could write it as a story". "well i just read such and such in the paper, maybe we can get some locals to comment on that". "what about the (insert important and relevent lead that needs much follow up work) story? should we not cover that?" "I don't think so. it will take too long and people might not be interested. it is quite dark. if its important the nationals will cover it" and so on. So we went back to the newsroom and I started ringing round tryng to find locals to comment on some innane "issue" from the papers, and a follow up on a national story. in the whole day only 3 journalists went out to interview people - 2 were press releases and the third was a vox pop. Almost everyone spent the day sat behind a computer, with the phone next to them and a stack of newspapers. As stories came in on the wires they were dutifully copied and pasted onto the internet "as quick as you can please". the idea was that we would go back later and extend the stories, although this rarely happened. so at the end of my first day I thought to myslef, surely this is a one off? Alas everyday since has been much the same. People approach us with genuine news, shocking stories that we should be investigating, verifying and reporting. Yet we spend the day in vacuous "local interest" stories. At times I think I am working on a chat show or magazine, not radio news reporting. I am itching to get out there and get into some real investigative journalism. But apparently the time and the money is not there for me to do that. What do I do?

Fighting back

Added: 25 July 2008

I think there is something that can be done, but only a little. On the macro scale, I think truth-telling journalism is under terrible pressure from the greedy corporations who have bought up our newsrooms and ransacked them for profit, with all of the numerous damaging results which I've tried to describe in Flat Earth News. And I really don't see how we will find the political strength to turn that around. Indeed, I think it will get worse. We should protest and maybe we can win a skirmish or two, but we should not kid ourselves about the scale of the problem. However, on the micro scale, I think there are still battles to be fought and won. Every time a reporter says to their news desk "You must give me the time to research this difficult story, even if that does leave you short of a reporter for a while"; every time one of us says to the desk "I've written this story and it's long and it's complicated and it probably won't help to sell a single newspaper, but it's important so you must give me the space": every time we win an argument like that, we hold back the tide of churnalism a little longer. We can do that.



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