From why a council-run leisure club is spending hundreds of thousands of tax payers money on new equipment, whilst running at a loss. To why a homeless man living in a tent isn’t deemed ‘homeless enough’ by the people who have the power to secure him a roof over his head.
We are taught to recognise when a case switches to ‘active’. To not disclose that the man just arrested for allegedly burgeoned his mother to death with a spoon has a history of violent crime. Or that the green grocer saw a 6”2 dark haired male with a spliff-smoking rat tattoo on his neck, fleeing the scene with said spoon. It’s a little case of TMI.
We are taught to be fair. To give the council-tax dodging councillor the opportunity to reply. To defend himself. Despite the evidence on the magistrates charge street, despite the overwhelming urge to do the complete opposite.
We are taught to be reactive. To watch a situation unfold and instinctively understand that this is news worthy, and the public gotta know.
We are taught to have a thick skin. Even when a someone wants to throw you under a bus in a public Facebook group for ‘not doing your job’ when in fact, the shoe was steadfast on the other foot.
We are taught to understand the legal restrictions and allowances placed on journalists in a court of law. To understand that we cannot include in our report the heckling cousin of the alleged murderer in the public gallery, unless Mary-sue has given evidence. We must understand a section 45, and an 11. Never forget an 11. We cannot record, but we can tweet.
We are taught to observe-only. Keeping our opinionated brains on sleep-mode. Record the facts, but more importantly, record the balanced facts. Don’t judge the woman who stakes out abortion clinics with posters of unborn foetuses to ‘help’ pregnant women. Don’t judge, but listen. And tell her tale too.
We are taught that we are the voice of a community. And we must not take advantage of that position. We must be approachable, and take the time to listen to Barbara tell us her life story. And as we listen we discover Barbara climbed Everest, blindfolded, and won the Nobel peace prize. Because you just never know.
We are taught the mechanics of the country. From how the queen is funded, to which council organises grass verge cutting. Elections and by-elections. District, county, borough and parish. Committees and Select committees. Political parties and independents. We learn it, so that we can translate the minefield of bureaucracy.
We are taught to protect our source. M15 style. Don’t give up their identity, keep mum. Article 8 of the European Court of Human Rights will back you, it backed the other guy.
We are taught that shorthand is gospel. A dictaphone can only do so much, and in court or caught out on the hop, it is useless. Teeline is gruelling. It takes dedication, and hundreds of hours of practice- just to get good enough for our CV not be ignored by potential editors. It is a mountain to climb.
We are taught accuracy, honesty and integrity. To maintain our reputation by recording the facts, just as they are. “It’s Mandy with an ‘ie’”
We are taught that donning a wig and specs combo to catch the taxi firm that has reportedly discriminated against blondes with aviators, is a last ditch resort only.
Above all we are taught to be brave. To have faith in our direction.
To tell people’s stories is a privilege, and we are taught never to loose site of that.