Wednesday, 21 May 2014
It’s been a year since I tossed in my press badge and walked away from the media. All those politics, all those battles… I used to think I was fighting for something worthwhile.
Now, I see things a little differently. Maybe I was just deluded all along, or maybe I’ve finally figured out how to articulate years of self-loathing. Anyway, here’s how it looks from the outside.
1 — Journalists have no “off” switch.
Life in the media is all-consuming. We’re on the pulse of what’s happening and it’s our job to know the inside scoop before everyone else does. There isn’t room for anything else.
That’s why, when we’re at dinner with friends, we’re talking about our latest story; when we’re watching the news, we’re wondering whether it affects our story; when we’re playing with our kids, we’re wondering whether a new update just came in; and when there’s a public holiday, we wonder if it’ll affect our readership.
We think we have a life, but the truth is we’ve made it our life.
2 — The people who care most about what’s said in the media are the media…
You can spot the journalists from a mile on social media. We’re the ones who share 20 times the number of FaceBook posts a day compared to everyone else. We’ll also argue about life, the universe, everything, with anyone foolish enough to take the bait… usually other journalists.
We have a pathological desire to generate, lead and monetise public discussion. We like to call it intelligent discussion, but most people would rather spend their time on something less taxing like videos of cats falling over; or simply validating views they already have.
I’m not making a value judgement of people who choose to be narrow-minded, nor of cat videos — I’m just stating a fact. I love cat videos. Here’s one of my favourites.
3 — …and people with something to sell.
If you’re writing “real” news, you’re one of the lucky few.
Most everyone else is working on tourist tips, celebrity gossip, live blogs of television shows, opinion editorials, product reviews; all of them arranged in Top Ten lists and using every opportunity to mention nipple slips, Kim Kardashian and anything else “you won’t believe” in the headline… you could actually go for a couple of weeks without any exposure to the media and it would make no meaningful difference to your life.
4 — The media will never return to its former glory, whatever the hell that was.
People still have delusions of a Devil Wears Prada fantasy, but truthfully the media is a little more like Trainspotting. You know, where you’re so desperate for a fix that you’ll climb into The Worst Toilet in Scotland for it.
Just the other day, I saw an old colleague from a well known national news outlet pleading for tips on how to download the latest episodes of True Blood so that she can write an article about them.
5 — Life without regular deadlines feels bananas, but is actually great…
…because people have time to show genuine not-in-an-ironic-sense appreciation and gratitude for your work. This bottle of chardonnay*? This was just for meeting “a” deadline.
This one time, a post-media colleague told me to “push back” on a deadline when I pointed out that we’re under-resourced. I half-expected the universe to collapse on itself at the suggestion (it isn’t called a deadline for nothing, y’know).
*Oh, by the way, I’m experimenting with shutter-drag today