Reporting awkward subjects: Journalism matters.

My old journalism lecturer Frank Warner* told us being a reporter didn’t always make you new friends.

Certainly the journo tag can open doors. As a journalist and TV programme maker, I’ve been to places the public don’t get to go: meeting Paul Weller backstage at Glastonbury… standing feet from a golden eagle nest high in the Cairngorms.

 

People feel good reading and watching those stories.

But it’s the times that your audience feels uncomfortable that you know you are really doing your job. Meeting a family of seven who are so short of cash they sold their stair carpet. Standing on a hillside as men with shotguns shoot beautiful mountain hares.

Why are we thrusting these awkward things in our readers’ and viewers’ faces?  So everyone can talk about them.  Some of these things may be shocking, but it’s never been my mission to shock (see my blog about journalistic provocateurs and their place in the world). Just reveal… explain… and allow debate.

Yes I plead guilty to the occasional use of tabloid headline-ism (is that a word?).  But I hope I didn’t let it get in the way of the fair telling of a good story.

Sure some people will always rail against it – why are you ruining their quiet evening by showing something that’s disturbing,  annoying or just not cute and quaint?

WELL because that’s the real world.  It’s happening in your street, often in your name.

It’s not the journalist’s job to tell people what’s right or wrong, but to “show and tell”… give some space to all sides of the debate.  And yes, to do it with rigour.  To ask the awkward questions. Well, mostly one question. One word: “Why?”

I want to give you a real life example of simple journalism at it’s most effective. And how powerful people sometimes just don’t get it.  They don’t understand how simple truths are everything.  Next time on Journalism Matters: Dubai Dreams

Phil.

(*more about Frank another time)

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