How good stories can make bad people

9 May

In one of Piers Morgan’s books he says that when Princess Diana died, some journalists came in to work on their days off – unprompted and without asking – just because they wanted to work on such a big story. Others who rang and begrudgingly offered to come in, were apparently told if they had to ask, then they shouldn’t bother coming in on Monday.

News journalism is a funny beast. Having just revisited this side of things for the last 10 days, I confess I love writing news, there’s an immediacy and an edge to it that feature writing just can’t touch. It’s not all scoops and doorstepping of course – much of it is mundane – but there are adrenaline moments for all of us.

When a company I’d written about over the last ten years finally went bust and was exposed for being a sham, I stood up and cheered in the office – fist punchingly good news (very un-Chiswick)..good riddance to bad rubbish etc.  Similarly when the chap who’d called me an idiot for asking me to explain his (deliberately unfathomable) business model went belly up I was delighted – vindicated at last.

But as we know with animals and all the rotten press behaviour leading up to Leveson, tasting blood can turn you into a vampire if you’re not careful.

Sitting in Green Park opposite the Ritz hotel with my friend whose still in news reminded me how close this line can be. Hearing of the death of Mrs T – she rang in immediately and offered to come in. Why would you want to miss that kind of story, we agreed, it’s just too big – and a once in a lifetime chance to be involved in a story like that.

The conversation then moved to what the next event will be – that fine line drawing ever nearer.. Hmm Blair – no that definitely won’t be as big. The Queen – yeah that’ll be a good one. And then I thought (& only just stopped myself from saying) – ooh what about Kate, that’d be fantastic.

Woa.  Line crossed. I’d officially gone to the dark side & don’t like the thoughts in my head. Back to features, I’m a nicer person there.

[Disclaimer of sorts: apologies for those of you who find the above distasteful, I blog about it for the purposes of highlighting how scarily easy it is to find oneself on the wrong moral road – not as a justification of bad behaviour, just as a note that we all have the potential to think the unthinkable. The point, I guess, is just whether or not we act on it.]

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