Considering a career in journalism? Well I’m the go-to man.
Part of my job as a writer at this newspaper is to make the occasional trip to schools and community groups to talk about the industry.
I don’t do this uninvited, of course, bellowing my thoughts through a loudhailer from the back of a transit van in the school playground.
No, people actually want to hear what we journalists have got to say. I think they want us to explain ourselves, and for good reason. We’ve not had a good press in recent years (decades even).
One of the key points is to get the message across to the public that we’re not like the rabid stab-you-in-the-back-for-a-story hacks as portrayed on TV and the movies.
EastEnders is one of the worst culprits for painting us journalists as two-faced glory- hunters throwing the unsuspecting public under the bus for a good story. I’ve yet to see a reporter from the Walford Gazette actually do some good for his or her community.
So whenever a school contacts the paper to give a talk to kids, the loathsome news hounds who would throw you under a bus for a story are chained up for the day and they send me out. I’m the acceptable face of newspapers. And that alone gives you an idea of the trouble we’re in!
The TV reporters have good teeth, fashion sense and charm. The radio presenters may be no oil paintings, but they have beautiful voices.
I have a good face for newspapers. And don’t be fooled by the byline photographs, they are why Photoshop was invented. Not only are the images invariably a good 10 years old, but have been through the digital artist’s airbrush dozens of times. “Can you shave a little off my nose, lighten my cheekbones and keep the chins to under four?”
And so it passed that the shiny-eyed young Year 8 and 9 pupils at the Academy at Shotton Hall, in Peterlee, had their illusions of this great industry shattered by a grey-faced grizzled old hack.
To be fair, I did my best to paint as vivid and romantic an image of journalism as I could.
I asked my eldest son what he thought schoolkids would like to hear about being a reporter. His comments probably revealed more about kids today.
“Tell them how much money you can make,” he said, adding “tell them all the good bits, none of the bad, and make it fun.”
I tried. I dug up a few images of millionaire journalists. I know it sounds like an oxymoron, but there are a few out there. Piers Morgan, Katie Hopkins, Jeremy Clarkson… well, not so much oxymorons as morons.
I told the kids that they could all make a fortune through journalism, if they worked hard, passed their exams and landed their own slots on prime time TV shows. It’s that easy.
To illustrate a career in journalism, I peppered my presentation with anecdotes, funny images and weird facts and figures.
At the end of the hour-long journathon, I got a round of applause and the children’s teacher asked for a show of hands for who would like to be a reporter.
Of the 50 kids, not one put their hand up.
My work here was done…