21 February 2023

Stop the presses, get off - and hit the delete button

| Sally Hopman
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TItanic sinking headline: no lives lost

As journalists, we try to get it right … try really hard against all deadlines. But sometimes, you just get it wrong, very, very wrong. Photo: File.

Mick Jagger used to sing about it all the time: you can’t always get what you want … but if you try sometimes you get what you need.

I reckon he was probably a bit of a master when it came to getting what he needed, judging by who, where and how he is today, clearly still getting satisfaction, while for the rest of us thin-lipped fans, not so much.

Sometimes all I want is for the person whose comment can help me finish a story to, well, comment. To not spend three days dealing with a media adviser who advises them not to speak to journalists in the first place. Because journalists are bad people: they switch your words around, they try to trick you into saying things you didn’t say – except that you did because it’s on the record.

They (journalists) also probably kick puppies, steal from those tins with pathetic native animals stuck all over them and are clearly responsible for whatever widespread unrest is happening anywhere in the world because of what they’ve written.

READ ALSO UC’s landmark media study says trustworthy local news still matters most to audience

No, we’re not. We’re not bad people. Well, I have my moments but most of the others are pretty decent souls. Ordinary in fact.

The other day I was working on four stories at the same time. My brain was beyond taxed. It was in debt. None of the stories had anything to do with each other except that I wanted them all done and dusted and the people who I needed to talk to, to do and dust them, weren’t available/healthy/in the country/didn’t like me/my stories or those of any of my relatives.

All I wanted, respectfully, was a yes, no, or even a “down the track”. But no, no-one was talking.

Usually it’s only the really good stories where people don’t talk. And I rarely do anything of that calibre. Mine are usually self-indulgent waffle, usually starring a dog called Mickey and featuring some tenuous link to a remarkably non-tacky snowdome collection.

In a perfect world, I’d just like you to know that journalists are not all bad. Not all good, but not all bad either.

Newspapers and tablets

Despite how backward you are when it comes to advanced technology, or any technology really, when you make a mistake, you just can’t go past the delete button. Photo: File.

We’re very much improved from our early days. Urban myth had it that journalists drank, smoked and caroused constantly – and that was just during working hours. (The carousing part was mainly done by sub-editors because they were the only ones who could spell it.)

The problem seems to be that some people think they say much smarter things to journalists than they actually do. And when they see it in print or on screen, they demand a re-count or re-cord or a re-something. I reckon they should get re-moved.

READ ALSO When it comes to telling a good yarn, words are only part of the story

Online media is much kinder when we make mistakes than the old print days when you had to wait around for the second edition to go, for all the compositors to come back from their tea break at the pub, and bribe them with the promise of a slab if they deleted the word “dick” in front of the word “head” that accidentally got composited near the head shot of someone really important and with a penchant for suing the pants off everyone and thing.

My memories of being a young journalist in Sydney are not at all hazy. They are perfectly clear, sober and not at all embarrassing. Seems if you don’t have pictures, it didn’t happen.

Stay focused folks.

Original Article published by Sally Hopman on Riotact.

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