Sunday, 24 July 2011

The dark side

Welcome to the dark side.

Welcome to the backstabbing, the lies, the poor pay, the sleepless nights, the horrific pressure, the rudeness and arrogance of paper 'number ones' towards younger journalists coming up ... and so on.

Journalism does have a dark side, that's why so many journalists are disliked and the profession seen as deceitful. While I have never once written a story that I know to be false, I cannot deny that I've heard of goings on and certain papers that makes me think, what the hell am I doing in this profession.

At 6.15pm one evening, there was a gaping hole on one page of a national newspaper, that needed to be filled. A shout from the newsroom from one of the men in charge asked if anyone had anything. A few people said they had some press conferences quotes that were yet to be used..all pretty mundane stuff.

It was decided that a 'story' involving a team wanting a player should be written despite the fact they knew it wasn't true. It was, quite literally, plucking a team and a name out of thin air and linking them together. Why? 'Because the general public and white van man lap this transfer shit up' (actual quote).

It's best to treat everything you read in the papers with suspicion but rest assured, there are many, many good papers and journalists out there that do their best to find stories. But yes, sometimes the profession can be accused of being economical with the truth.

The editors are bloodthirsty types that want a story and want it first. I've been at a desk many times in my life and seen an entire backpage scrapped at 10.15pm when the editions are first coming out because a rival newspaper has an exclusive. Once, I think it was the Daily Mail that had written a story (exclusive) and we all saw it come through on the first editions. We didn't have the story. I was asked to write a similar one so 'we didn't miss out' on anything, despite the fact the Mail's story might not even be true anyway (for the record, as it turned out the story from the Mail was 100% spot on.) I refused to write the story and got an almighty bollocking for it.

You rarely get praised in the job from the editor but if you don't get a story right or make an error in your copy, expect them to come down on you like a ton of bricks. It's the way it is, I am afraid. You need a thick skin to survive, and that's just from fellow journalists.

The rule of the jungle is look after yourself. Stab your mate in the back to get an exclusive? I'd wager more than 50% of journalists would do this. I once got a tip off from someone that a player got injured in training and would miss around 4 months of the season. I phoned a fellow journalist at a rival paper to tip him off too, because I owed him once as he sent me the quotes from a manager's press conference as I couldn't get there because my car had broken down.

But that's pretty rare. More often than not, journalists will keep schtum about any story they are working on for fear a rival/friend will get the same story, which is fair enough. But  saying you will email over quotes from an after match press conference and then 'forgetting' to do so? Yes, it happens. Usually when the quotes from the presser are quite juicy and seeing a rival paper miss out on them would be good for your own paper. Sigh.

Journalists get on mostly, although I'll never forget when Rob Beasley (then at the NOTW) threw Anthony Kastrinakis down the stairs once.  They now work at the same paper, The Sun.

There is a massive pressure to get stories and sometimes journalists will 'twist' things to make it seem like there is a story when there isn't. Some of the Nasri stuff this summer has intrigued me, considering respected journalists have filed a story and then three weeks later, another version is printed which is saying the EXACT same thing but in another way. Just to make it seem like their finger remains on the pulse.

The money is pretty shit for the work you do. Yes, I get to go to games and chat to the players afterwards but it's not always like that. There's the awful feeling in the office when it's quiet and you can feel the editor's eyes burning you as you don't have anything new to offer (yet) and there's the awful PR events when you are treated like scum from footballers who think they've made it when they haven't. The PR people aren't that good either - your questions (designed to get a response so as to make a good story) are usually vetted beforehand and you can forget about being invited to future 'meet and greet Wayne Rooney playing FIFA 10' events if you don't mention FIFA at least twice in your story.

It's a great profession at times but equally, there's a lot of nasty goings on and internal cliques from journalists that can irk you. Whenever I see a youngster in the press box pretending to type on his phone or speak to someone on his mobile I feel sorry for them, as they feel awkward and nervous as all the established journalists huddle in their own circle and make it impossible for you to breach them.

Luckily, I am over all that bollocks now as I am into my 30s and been on the block for a while, but it's still disheartening to see.


  1. excellent article! keep em coming mate !

  2. This article confirms what i read in the illuminating "Flat Earth News," by Nick Davies. It breaks my heart that most people are so misled by the bent and twisted art of journalism. Up till now i have only trusted John Pilger but you Darren are now in that exclusive club of two.