Beyond the News
Journalists work every day in one of most fast pace environments that someone could actually be involved in. However, when there is no breaking news out there, no major catastrophes or political scandals to cover, when the football season is over, when the stock market is stable: what do journalists do?
Every morning, before getting into the “beat” at work, I go through 2 or 3 online newspapers to look at what is going on in the world (worse than do not read any newspaper is to read the same one everyday), so I can set-up my mind for the day ahead. And when there is no major story to tell I ask myself: “what are those journalists doing today”? It is incredible how they disappear when nothing bombastic is happening. The headlines become so bureaucratic, especially when discussing economy; it is all about “specialists” coming up with some predictions for the next months, which eventually does not happen just like they say.
I remember my years covering break news how much pressure broadcasters and publishers put on their journalists to bring something “mouth-filling”. It is not from today that an exclusive interview is more than “an exclusive interview”. It is about power, audience and money! And that is what journalists nowadays are looking for.
Just as an example, in 2006 there was in Tasmania, Australia, a case of 2 miners who got trapped underground for 14 days and rescued alive! The case was emotional and took the attention of entire country. Once free, these two miners became top stars and one TV channel offered them a million dollars deal to have the “heroes” talking in exclusive. Similar situation happened with the miners in Chile in 2010, who were taken to the US for interviews!
And to be honest I do not see much problem on that because, eventually, that is how things are: a journalist work for an organization and most of the time needs to follow the orders that come from the top. But what bothers me is the fact that some journalists are seating there only waiting for the “boom” and the top management to say: “we can make money with it, let’s get the job done”, instead of move their skulls to research and find something new, just like in the Watergate case. In the meantime, and instead, journalists nowadays simply “let the egg boil slowly”.
Who has ever been in a TV studio or a radio station knows what I am talking about. When something big happens, there are papers everywhere, people running up and down with some of them not even going home for a week or so (I, myself “slept” several nights in the office finishing my articles – it was quite exciting!), and the mood inside the office is just electric! However, once it ends, it is like if there is no more energy to put on further coverage and most reporters are not going to “stress themselves” into a more detailed research of a “cold story”.
But answering the question, what journalists do when there is no breaking news is: look for breaking news! The only problem is that not everyone put the same efforts to accomplish this goal, leaving to the top management a breach to come up with some ideas that focus more on marketing and sales than journalism itself. Wrong? Well, not totally, someone, somehow, needs to pay the salary and not having a bombastic story to tell might mean: lower audience, lower advertisement, and lower pay.
It would be great if we, journalists, were everyday as much energetic as we are when something great is happening out there. For me, the most important principle of journalism is research! To write a good story you need to dig, dig, dig; and for that it is necessary passion and energy. A journalist need to be committed in putting extra time and efforts on the research while the world is doing just “well”, so he/she can get the best out of it. If you want to make a difference to the world, you simply need to work hard!