Why My Optimism Hasn’t Fallen Amidst ‘Mailgate’

AS A ‘TRAINING JOURNALIST’, the events that have unfolded, or rather, the events which are still unfolding this week, are not particularly supporting my optimism for my chosen career path.

I’ll take you back to roughly two weeks ago. I’m starting my initial induction sessions to my BA Hons Multimedia Journalism course at Bournemouth University and things are looking exciting; I’ve received a warm welcome from all members of staff, much introductory course information and possibly one too many Santander leaflets from eager representatives outside the Campus branch. I’m looking forward to the decision of a new system of press regulation being announced on the 9th October; I’m looking forward to begin seriously thinking about the topics being discussed on Question Time and The Wright Stuff; I’m beginning to think more about how this course can benefit me and my professional demeanour as a ‘training journalist’.

So now I have the foundation laid for an optimistic future, you now probably know why my optimism may have fallen so far as to not give me any inspiration, or indeed, any motivation for practising Journalism whatsoever.

Exactly one week ago the Daily Mail published a ‘story’ on how Ed Miliband’s deceased father, Ralph Miliband, “hated” England. Miliband Jr. fired back and demanded a right of reply: The Independent wrote “Mr Miliband demanded the right of reply in the paper and said fierce debate about politics did not justify “character assassination” of his father’. To my loose knowledge, the Mail has subsequently apologized – where this apology is, I have yet to discover – only this was a back-handed apology due to the editorial “We repeat, he did hate England” heading a repetition of the article in Tuesday’s edition of the Mail. Directly underneath Miliband’s published response.

Not only was this entirely uncalled for (not to mention wholly unethical), but also ridiculed further by critics and other Journalists, most notably Medhi Hasan’s slating of The Daily Mail on Question Time last week, accusing it of being “immigrant bashing” and “gay baiting”. Firmly one-sided but not wrong, in my eyes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73ZCrDtAC7A

So it may be fairly obvious where this comes into play on my end of the stick. Because it is a stick: poking me and prodding me at the most inconvenient of times, but also scratching at some of the dirt on the surface.

I’ll explain. In one of the four consecutive lectures I had the pleasure of attending on Friday last week, my news lecturer Liisa Rohumma (former FT.com news editor) expressed her strong opinion that news should never be about Journalists, or Journalism itself as a concept. News is there to be reported, a story should be told by Journalists, it shouldn’t be about them. Not only do I agree wholeheartedly with her judgement, I also managed to find an application for it whilst watching Sunday Politics in an interview with John Prescott. Andrew Neil asked if this story on the Daily Mail has any connections or comparison to the controversial tactics employed by Mirror writers, when they were found to be searching David Cameron’s rubbish bins to see what kind of nappies they were using for his disabled son. As a weekly columnist for the Mirror, Prescott did not deny this was a similar comparison to the Mail story and freely voiced his concerns for those involved in support of Miliband and his father. But my concern is not of the clearly troubled Journalists, nor the papers being represented by them, but of the bigger picture: surely, this should be worrying for the reputation of thousands of working Journalists out there, and for the thousands more of the aspiring Journalists (i.e. me).

The truth, I’m sorry to tell you, is that it’s not. Because when I had discovered this story, and when the floodgates opened for literally every other paper (and website) than the Mail to voice their opinions, I got a kick out of it.

Why, do you ask?

It’s the reason I wanted to become a Journalist in the first place. Expression, cynicism, consideration, excitement, angst, possibility and reason. Weighing up of truths. Deliberation of knowledge. All the things, I’ve been told, that make Journalists Journalists.

And for that big of a positive to come out of a story so negative, is why I’m as optimistic as ever.

Optimist-or-Pessimist

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