Don Your Way column: Why does journalism get such a bad press?

Darren Burke thinks journalists get a bad press.
Darren Burke thinks journalists get a bad press.

At times, it can be a funny old world being a journalist.

Once people know what job you do, you get several responses.

Some people visibly freeze and tense up, convinced that the dinner party details of how much their Ford Focus gets to the gallon are about to be splashed on the front of tabloids across the globe and subject to ridicule on Have I Got News For You.

People instantly become wary, which can be somewhat unsettling if you’re just trying to make polite small talk.

Then there’s the “I’ve got a story for you” brigade, the ones who instantly want to get into your ribs and tell you about some minor irritation they encountered with a local business several years previously and which they now feels need exposing like some kind of Doncaster version of Watergate.

You can spend a good part of the evening politely nodding knowing that when they announce “put that in your paper,” there’s not a cat in hell’s chance of it making it to print.

And then there’s the “blamers,” the ones who blame you personally for every little fault they’ve ever encountered with the newspaper you work for.

If that particular newspaper got someone’s name wrong in 1982, that’s YOUR fault.

If an advert was misprinted in 1965, then YOU are personally responsible.

Car failed to sell when you put it in the small ads in 1996? That’s YOUR fault too, sunshine.

Never mind that you weren’t even born, someone has to be held responsible for these long-held grudges and that person happens to be you.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do love to hear people’s stories and I am proud of what I do.

However, it is a profession that can be sorely misunderstood and badly represented at times.

There’s no defending phone hacking or any of the other dubious practices which have shown the media in a bad light, but there’s nothing winds me up more than the portrayal local journalists get on TV.

If there’s a journalist in one of the soaps, chances are they’ll be a seedy, unscrupulous type in a long mac, rifling through the bins and using any means necessary to nail the person they are after and to “get that scoop”.

Any local journo will tell you the truth is somewhat different and rather than trying to force entry into hospital dressed as a doctor, they’ll be back at the office knocking out pieces about golden weddings and community issues.

It’s a badly-outdated stereotype up there with the French all being dressed in stripy jumpers with onions around their necks, or Germans all sporting lederhosen and listening to oompah band music while quaffing foaming pints of beer.

Remember that, next time you see someone from the Walford Gazette or Weatherfield Recorder jamming their foot through a door in EastEnders or Coronation Street.