Well, my disciples, it’s been nearly a month since my last post, and even that was just a list of things I liked about Die Hard 4. I make no excuses. I have been busy getting my shit together for the big move south and plying my trade (journalism, not prostitution) down in Englandshire.
Last week I was on a week’s placement at a popular regional evening paper (shan’t disclose which one). Being in a newsroom again was a great feeling. There’s a tension in newspaper offices not found anywhere else in the world – the feverish, desperate tapping of keys, the seething resentment & general desire for a better job coupled paradoxically with the knowledge that you are totally unqualified & unwilling to do anything else, and that you will almost certainly die aged 53 totally alone and unappreciated of a sudden brain embolism brought on by stress, long hours and a high salt diet. The office is filled with people who would be thin if they had time to exercise and would be fat if they had time to eat. Everyone smokes. Actually, it’s nothing like that at all, but the image of drunken cynical hacks in their dingy offices is the one that journalists like to sell in order to romanticize themselves, make the process of creating news stories seem somehow torturous and Byronic. Your average modern-day newspaper office is generally very clean and full of bright, upwardly mobile young professionals, at least some of whom have principles.
All things considered I had a successful week. I got a few things in the paper, which is always nice, did a couple of interviews, shook hands with a government minister and ambushed a paedophile.
A few things didn’t sit right with me though. For instance, I hate writing up deaths. I called an old woman whose husband had just died and started asking her questions about him. Predictably she started to weep and wail, and I felt like shit. Then I had to ask her to send pictures in to the paper as well (which she did, bless her). So I wrote an article about the man’s life and tried to make it tasteful and inoffensive. I think I did OK, although I haven't seen what the subeditors have done to it yet. If this depresses me so much, how am I going to deal with talking to the families of children killed in car accidents, people incinerated in gas fires, victims of sex attacks and terrorism? Amy “The Huntress” Hunt told me she had to do a death article every week for a year and a half.
Also, we ran a story about a man who was convicted of filming women in changing rooms, and his wife rang up and begged us not to run the story. Of course, we still ran it. We’re legally entitled to. If he’s convicted then he’s fair game. And now thanks to us the sordid details are out in the public eye for all to read. What about his wife and kids? That’s a family ruined. I sometimes worry about the lack of conscience in the newspaper industry. On the other hand though, the guy is a pervert and possibly a threat to others. What can you do? Answer: shut up and do your God damn job.
I even felt a little bad about the paedophile, because he was 75 years old and so frail he couldn’t even run away when we photographed him coming out of court. He also had sad, watery eyes. He was knocked out by the 16 year old he tried to molest and couldn’t even get up to run away.
So my worry right now is: am I hard-hearted enough to do this job? I’ve always prided myself of being something of a bastard so these feelings are unusual to me. I suppose I’ll have to do some extra cruelty exercises to make up for it: I’d better go kick some puppies or something.