At some point in your career, you’re going to get a good story.
Until then, there’s the internet.
Before you uncover the scandal that will topple the government/the global military industrial complex/the Bilderberg group, you’ll have a chance to write something that people will actually read: a listicle.
Your years jabbing fingers into late-night party chests on finer political points and a pricey media education will only truly pay off when you get the chance to ‘go viral’.
Time was you ‘broke’ a story (an exclusive no one had handed to you on a plate) and it’ got legs’ (got a mention on the morning radio talk shows. If you were lucky, drivetime radio may even carry it along and draft in a talking head, preferably political, to get steamed up about it. If you really DID have something and your timing was right (Tuesdays or the day of ministerial questions in your political chambers) it may even get ‘traction’ and surface as the ‘Something Must Be Done’ topic du jour.
If chat shows found a ‘victim’ of the Thing That Something Must Be Done About, your luck’s in. Expect a call from a radio production assistant or their more brightly dressed television cousins. You may find yourself in the gaping maw of the media explaining to people who don’t care (the public) How You Broke The Story.
Frighteningly, your random day at the office can even end up effecting social change.
But so, too, can watching cat videos. Or, if embedding links from YouTube isn’t your thing, the king of digital content: the listicle.
Becuase while effecting social change may be rewarding, it doesn’t really pay the bills. If it did, newspapers would still be healthy. As it is, most millenials hold a dim view of the Fourth Estate, and given the corporate squalor which passes for news, that view may not be too cynical to hold.
New readers won’t be coming along any time soon.
But Nine Ways To Wash Your Bra That You Won’t Believe!
Say what you like about made-up stories in tabloids but when it comes to creative writing at the hands of a hack, nothing – and we mean nothing- beats the the skill deployed when a journo comes to writing up their ‘ecces’.
Senior hacks will tell you that ‘eccies/exes’ – expenses – are the lifeblood of their profession.
And by ‘lifeblood’ they mean ‘booze’.
No news editor worth their salt will look too closely at the weekly expenses that land on their desk. It is bad form. Financial directors and the accounts department loathe them as a hack’s expenses, often like their stories, bear no resemblance to any reality or category found in SAGE.
Hacks will tell you they need them to lubricate contacts (get pissed on Friday with other reporters), stake out jobs (stake out the bar on Friday) and incidental expenses to help nail the last fact on a yarn to copper-bottom it (Pringles and other snacks from the bar).
Most are clearly made up and Editors know this – but even they stop their natural suspicion get the better of them lest their own Lunch With Contact For Splash receipts tell their own story.
The reason is very simple: morale.
With very few exceptions print journalists are terribly paid. Aside from national newspapers, most limp on surviving on pitiful wages. And any news editor asking a doorknocker to stay on at a murder victim’s house to grab more interviews for the final edition knows this will only happen if their hotel bar bill will go through unsullied by questions.
And rightly so.
Because there IS merit in the saying: When the beer is in the man, the wit is in the can.
Just like a London cabbie with an overdeveloped hippocampus that allows him or her to remember every street in the capital, journos – even while six sheets to the wind – have a part of their brain that permanently hoovers and stores snippets, nuggets and downright splash-worthy leads, in their noggin. And when they are cornered in a bar and plied with drink, this super spidey-sense is at its very best. Combined with a contact (even a rival hack) with a few drinks sloshing about loosening their tongue and you have a genuine chance of a real story being obtained.
And you just don’t get that from a press release.
If it’s your first day in a newsroom and you feel you lack the creativity to put together a bullet-proof expenses claim, then the following Golden Rules will help.
Found some receipts in your pocket from 3.19am Sunday morning? You’re in luck.
Bongos Night Club: Drinking myself into oblivion after I got dumped
That’s a nope. Instead try..
Drink With Contact
Less is more.
Two For The Price Of One
Let’s face it, you’re going to be a lot more convincing if each receipt has two drinks instead of one. How else can you convince accounts you are with Deepthroat working on your next big scoop?
Buy your drinks in pairs. If you really want to gild the lily, make one a sparkling water to show your committment to lucidity while nailing the big story.
Get into the habit of pocketing every receipt you ever see unattended. No amount is too small and, in fact, your accounting department will appreciate your attention to detail. They ARE accountants,after all. Taxi receipts (or better still, a pad of taxi receipts from a cabbie), bar receipts, fast-food receipts, stationary shops (your voice recorder EATS batteries with all those interviews you’re doing).
If you use it, receipt it.
As the crow flies
Crows may fly straight but you don’t. Google your mileage from the office to the job and triple it.
How can you convince your newsdesk you’ve knocked every door for miles around pursuing the story if you don’t have the mileage to prove it.
Too hot to handle
Crime and Security corrs will usually have a work mobile, a personal mobile and a couple of burn phones. Unlike you, they probably ARE getting monitored and if they are doing their job they WILL be speaking to either a) cops (which will get the cop fired) and b) criminals (making your call log the new MUST HAVE accessory) for your local detective
So pay-as-you-no-questions-asked phones are a must so they can keep their conversations off-grid.
This however is a goldmine. No reason why you shouldn’t have one, too This works if you HAVE landed a big story, so implement when you have a stripe or two in the newsroom.
Internet of things
Get the best phone package you can afford and claim for your allowance. Streaming press conferences for quotes on your phone eats data. So, too, does Netflix.
Taxman Is Your Friend
Believe it or not there are many claimable items that the taxman will let your Company claim on your behalf. Subsistence, meals, overnight expenses, clothing, the list goes on. It is no skin off a company’s noise to honour these claims as the Revenue will write it down. Learn what you can claim – and claim it.
Say It With Flowers
Considered as a bit gamey even by tabloid standards but sending flowers to victims and so forth is still done by some news organisations. If you have a close bond with a victim who’ve you’ve written about and the anniversary of the death/birth of quads/dog winning Crufts is close to your partner’s birthday or anniversary……yep, you know what you have to do.
Nothing adds authenticity more than a tea or coffee stain. Don’t be shy. Scrumple, tear, make it look realistic. anything to discourage close inspection.
Don’t Get Caught
Rule number one: Don’t Get Caught NOT Doing Them. If accounts get wind of you living off salary alone, there’ll be hell to pay.
Believe it or not, dear reader, there was a time when journalists didn’t ‘repurpose’ content.
It was a time when stories – or content, if you’ve hung out with marketing for more than a nanosecond – were actually produced by ringing people up, meeting humans (you know, the squishy flesh balls you see in a viral clip) and writing pretty much the opposite of what a spin doctor asked you to write.
Older, saltier hacks will regale the digital imports fresh into a newsroom with tales of a pre-digital past filled with noble aims of objectivity, truth and other words that look great when they come out of the mouths of more handsome movie journalists.
The reality (grim reality if we’re to use the default clichéd construction beloved of newscasters) is a little more prosaic and if you thought Apple A – Apple C – Apple V was your friend now when copying stories, then, just like teenagers and sex, you are not the first to discover this enjoyable staple.
It’s a practice known as ripping. And it’s been beloved of night news desks and evening papers since time immemorial.
And it’s beautifully onomatopoeic, too.
Because it quite literally consists of a harried news editor tearing and ripping out sections of rival newspapers first edition stories as soon as they’ve landed in a bundle at the back doors of a newspaper office.
The moment the bundle is dragged up to the newsdesk, the splashes and page leads of other papers are torn up and distributed to reporters. Or in the case of most papers these days, a sole casual shifter unlucky enough to pull the late shift.
If you’ve ever wondered why many papers have virtually the same stories but in a different order it is not by some mysterious synchronicity but by the practice of ripping first editions.
Often the changes to a paper’s own story can be marginal. A simple quote or two added to their own version of the yarn from a person they weren’t able to get before going to print. With the liberal use of attribution these are easily spotted.
‘Hanging’s too good fer ’em,’ the victim’s father told reporters late last night.
He sure did. Just not OUR reporters. And the LATE last night is a dig by the night editor at their day colleagues for failing to get the requisite quote.
So far,so normal. Hacks will argue this is no different to hearing a quote on the broadcast news or lifting an intemperate tweet in today’s social media echo chamber.
All newspapers do it and with many deadlines for third and fourth editions barely an hour away, the turnaround can be fairly impressive when pages have to be resubbed, redesigned and resent to the print plant.
Not quite the same as update and republishing a post with a backlink.
Some newspapers will go to the trouble of attempting to track down the person quoted to check the quote before running it. Admirable, old school, and to be done where possible. You never know, you can often steal a story with this ploy by kicking it on with a denial or even more hideous reaction to a misquote. Time-consuming and sadly going out of fashion.
Alternatively, if you cannot get the principal, you go and get reaction and see if the reaction can drive the story on to such a degree that you can pass the whole farrago off as your own story by final edition. This takes a bit of committment and is deployed when your rival actually DOES have a good story. If the story has legs and will outsplash yours the next day when the world awakes, you may as well go for broke and queer the pitch with a no holds barred rip.
Night editors don’t like doing it because it means an inbox of angry emails from their daytime bosses and reporters who slaved away on a project only to see it traduced while they were asleep.
The more anti-social night editors – and this is a special species who we will return to – will get a pol corr or specialist out of bed to add weight to the story they are about to rip. This will usually consist of a bigfooting a byline and tell-tale par such as:
Ministerial sources (ie the minister’s special advisor or the Government press officer off the record) indicated that an inquiry would be launched. (Ooops, the story is true and we need to put it on the long-finger by the time breakfast radio news gets a crack at it)
So next time you’re cut and pasting the comments from reddit or the YouTube video description, aim higher. Pick up the phone and rip away.
You’ve got the address, your subject has not yet given any interviews and thanks to an insomniac newsdesk you’re probably first on the road for The Big Story.
All goes to plan: they talk, they even give you some pictures – hard copy, of course – and you file swiftly before evening conference. For once, all is right with the world.
Is that a hint of a skip on the way to the newstand? The Big Story is on the radio but oddly no researcher rang you at midnight to invite you on the breakfast news talk shows to talk about it.
No matter, an exclusive splash byline will cheer you up.
Except, the black and white does not contain your name. Congratulations – you’ve been Bigfooted!
Bigfooting is the phenomenon where simple addition of late updates to a story or additional comment inserted after filing leaves the original author sidelined. It is also the point where you realise your co-workers and not your rivals are your worst enemies.
In genuine circumstances, an office veteran will anchor a story from the office threading all the updates and their own content together in a seamless narrative. Much like the rewrite men (and they WERE men) of old, they can parse vast quantities of information at speed and order them in the most enticing narrative to deadline. To editors and backbench they are vital.
The most gracious veterans will put your byline first and even forego their own. They learned long ago that bylines are largely meaningless to readers.
However, these deadline knights are a dying breed. But how do you recognise the ones who will scoop out your eyes and use them as click-clacks?
First, rule out the innocents: these include sub-editors and night reporters. They just carrying out orders. They are adding context and filleting quotes from TV and elsewhere. Part of a dozen such back-fills they do all night. It’s just another night’s work to them.
Your worst enemy. Egos fed entirely on bylines, they wither and die without regular feeding. Accustomed to working late on the parliamentary beat and late news talk shows, they will mount skilful ambushes on your copy simply by adding a quote’s worth of reaction late at night. They’ll follow this up with a call to the Night News Editor or Chief Sub with the disingenuous: ‘I’ve filed an add to the splash’.
Production are often working on nameless files and if an addpar comes through with a byline, they will fill the byline with the latest addition assuming it’s a continuation. Job done, the Political Editor is assured of another splash.
Hard-won doorstep exclusives are heavily influenced by crime but many crime reporters no longer hit the road, preferring a few quotes from their police sources. The doorstep is often left to agencies, lower ranking reporters or..er…you.
Given editors’ fondness for ‘Sources told the Daily Makeitup…’ quotes that add an undeserved air of authority to a yarn, you can quickly see your 1200 words traduced into ‘Additonal reporting by…’ as the Crime Reporter inserts the blindingly obvious into your story.
Senior police sources described the mutilation of the family of four with an axe as ‘brutal’.
Really? Thanks for that.
All the times you filed late, all the missed stories, all the unintelligible guff you filed drunk. All of it is remembered, all of it logged, all of it burned indelibly into the News Editor’s brain. For they alone are the ones torn apart in Conference for your misdeeds. This is where scores are settled. They are, after all, the last to touch your copy before it heads off to backbench.
Let’s face it. The Bible, and much of subsequent history would be a lot more entertaining if Moses had dumped his tablets of stone and, instead, come down the mountain clutching a coffee-stained newslist.
Out goes adultery, in comes Confessions of a Sexy Lovenest.
The only difference between the 10 Commandments and a news list is that one has divine approval, the other merely dictated by God.
The list is a holy news document embedded with near-mystical significance. Mystical because most of it has been imagined by its long-suffering author, the news editor, and is unlikely to survive morning conference.
While originally conceived as an editorial document to simply list the main news stories of the day and the importance of same, lists are actually a daily exercise in the news editor rewriting their CV twice a day.
And for news editors who have long-since ceased to write it remains largely their own creative outlet – and in the case of tabloid desk editors, as close to fiction as harry potter.
The list should be a decent summary of the days events, acting as mini-schedule for the upcoming news agenda. Brimming with bright ideas, exclusives and, satisfyingly for editors, follow-ups that urinate all over their darkest rival’s current s[plash.
In actual fact, most newslists are a smorgasbord of lifted listlines, reheated ideas spotted on Reddit and the letters pages of rivals. The craftiest news editors acknowledge other newspapers stories with an attempt to follow-up genuine original stories hiding the fact they’ve been scooped entirely with brash claims about doorknocking the protagonist.
Foolish news editors start their careers on the desk assuming the list is for the benefit fo the reporters whose names are assigned to story ideas. This is, of course, wrong.
The list’s partner in crime is the Picture List. Your closest ally in any conference situation is going to be the picture editor. For their list either confirms your most heinous lie
Yes, of course we have a snapper on the door. He’s with the reporter.
This is code for:
What bloody grave have you dug for us now?
In a tight spot, the picture editor will dig out their News Editor with a set of newborn puppies or a red carpet dress disaster to distract the Editor long enough for the News Editor to regain their composure under fire.
The list goes through a number of incarnations during the day as reality fails to live up to expectations – the Morning List and the Evening list.
Like dew on a meadow, exposed to any light whatsoever and it will be gone within hours. This is the first of many holding positions by the News Editor for the day ahead. Merely caltrops before the Editor’s cavalry. A few riders will be taken down but most of the charge will continue unhindered.
This list is All The Stuff We Wish We’d Had The Night Before And Stuff We’ve Blatantly No Time To Make Work
This will include call to actions such as Seeking, Doorstepping, Chasing, En Route to in a bid to show the Newsdesk has bothered waking up to breaking news – when the grim reality is working out how to make the hangover go away.
Editors can be forgiving as long as the news editor has made some attempt to list Things We’ve Heard On The News and an overnight crime spree. Throw in a good rumour that stands no chance of working out and you’ll probably get out of there alive.
As a treat, the Editor will lob an unchasable story onto your plate as a measure of goodwill.
Less a list and more of a last will and testament
Despite buying yourself 10 hours of thinking time, and despite promises from your trusted lieutenants and reporters to find Lord Lucan, solve the JFK assassination or proof of life on Mars, your list now faces a savaging. Chief sub – and their pesky obsession with facts – will be there to lend a hand.
The game of show-and-tell is well and truly on. In the face of abject failure to complete any of the above, the news editor now only has a few listlines before being fired on the spot.
Aware that their list is about to be shredded as part of the ritual humiliation of conference, the seasoned news editor hides their best story away from the collateral damage of the top of the list and tucks it strategically away two-thirds of the way in.
Far enough from ground zero and insulated from the tsunami of contempt that has now poisoned the sacrificial lambs at the top of the list – dull politics, a sad but ultimately uninspiring death or two – the Editor sashays through the remainder content that THIS will be the conference he or she will finally gain the scalp they crave.
Until, nuzzling between a survey by a PR firm and a picture spread on puppies-doing-the-funniest-things, they stub their toe on the splash:
EXCLUSIVE How I Fought Off Raider Gang With Toothbrush While My Daughter Caught The Whole Thing On Her iPhone.
Congratulations. Your pint is waiting, Your sacking is not today, at least.
Hemingway had bull fights. Papers have conference.
A fireside chat, they are not.
A cross between a stag weekend in Vegas and Guernica, newspaper editorial conference has enough blood, sweat and tears to entice even the most jaded HBO executive to reach for the cheque book and screen it live on pay-per-view.
If you find yourself being asked into conference by a shifty news editor with a 1,000 word stare, you’re going to need to know the basics.
Like Vegas, physical bruises aside, what happens in conference , stays in conference. There exists an omerta, a code of silence between the participants, their shared complicity in the brutal spectacle enough to buy their silence. Like a child porn ring, but without a working knowledge of IT.
And like Picasso’s awful imagining of the horrors of war in his massive gore filled Guernica, blood is shed, egos fractured and reputations severed by the vorpal snicker-snick of its presiding marshal: the Editor.
Newsroom fledglings wrongly assume that morning and evening conference are where seasoned media professionals thrash out the merits or otherwise of the News Editor’s newslist. Stories are analysed, weighted for impact, accuracy and fairness, before the collective will of conference agrees by consensus an article’s place within the run of the paper.
Happily, its much more exciting than that.
Morning Conference: A mere trifle, a warm up for evening conference. This is where a hung-over News Editor – sans news desk allies – explains to the Editor why he or she has personally missed ALL THESE STORIES! Despite packing a paper with exclusives, including the splash, the Editor will focus only on your failings. Expect to hear the following refrain several times within the first hour:
“Every other paper has this, why don’t we?”
This is easily parried. After all, what is the point of a Night News Editor if not to blame? It is, by default, their fault. NOT to blame them is seen as bad form. The news list at this stage is a mere phantom and with some 32 pages to fill there is little point in pretending you have anything substantial to offer. Pack the list full of questions which appear to suggest you are in the PROCESS of FINDING OUT. So that murder victim’s mum’s house?You’re seeking! This suggests a positive outcome which should placate the Editor until at least his or her own hangover wears off.
Your trusted ally in Morning Conference is your Picture Editor, for only they are under the same pressured to deliver. In the case of broadsheets, they will be clutching pictures of Iraqi market bombs, insurrection or a celebrity fancied by the Editor. In the case of a tabloid, any old twitter selfie. Their job – and yours- is to corroborate and reinforce blame on the night operation. After all, everything was in perfect order when you crawled out fo the building for the pub last night.
Your only hiccup will come from the panoply of Associate Editors and Leader writers who may have bothered to turn up for conference. Only they will have read any of the other papers with any great degree as their job titles are just that, titles. With no real role they exists only to agree with the Editor. If you are unlucky to have one in morning conference who is dreaming up an idea based on an old story, nod and say ‘we’ll look into that’ while pretending to write it down. Features and Sport can be ignored.
Evening Conference: Caligula, Nero, Darth Vader. All of them more predictable and charming than an editor at Evening Conference. Where only a handful of souls may have attended morning conference, and even then, without much enthusiasm, this is the moment of truth.
Or, as it happens, lies. You will need every lie known to humankind to pull off evening conference.
Like a bullfight at Ronda, you will prance proudly in with your newslist. It is bulletproof. Your hacks have toiled all day, doorsteps have been hit, copy has been cut and pasted from websites ready to pass-off as your own. You’ve even tucked away a back-up splash on the second page of your list.
In a broadsheet conference, you may be afforded a table, boardroom class, to give you some dignity. In tabloid conference, you’ll get a chair, if you’re lucky.
First the picador:Subs, night editor will encircle you and the ritual begins. No big guns, you can take these on, but it’s wearing. You’ll need all your strength for the Editor. A few facts will be questioned, nothing too onerous. You’ve lived with the story all day, they’ve watched twitter on their iPhone. Some wounds.
Second, the torreodors: chief sub (see ferrets passim); fairly hefty assaults on the point of the story. Chief sub is fairly relentless, like a Jack Russel with a Bonio. You’ll have to run a chaff operation. Try lying, but keep fidgeting to a minimum, maintain eye contact. If pressure continues and you don’t have the answers, make it look as if, in fact, you DO have them. Use the following precious heirlooms, handed down from News Editor to News Editor.
‘We’ve got the calls in’ (A voicemail’s been left with the receptionist’)
‘We’re at the door’ (We’re not there yet)
‘We’ve got a sit-down (The door’s been slammed in our face, but we got a quote)
‘It is my understanding…(Everything I am about to tell you is bollocks…)
Depending on Chief Sub’s frame of mind, you could still be in good shape by the time the Editor chips in for the kill. You could have found the Pope’s lovechild, and have pics, but this counts for naught. The point of conference, is simply to prove the Editor is a meaner bastard than the News Editor. So the pummeling will begin line by line, story by story. You’ll be mocked, shouted at, your ability to remember 32 pages of news in detail will be sorely tested and finally the splash will be spiked. Don’t fight this, the Editor’s ego must be protected.
Instead, meet the Editor’s gaze (they hate fear) and wait for page 2 of the list. Your back-up splash.
Congratulations, you’ve made it through another day – just in time for morning conference.
Not just a place for lavender pot plants, the doorstep is the natural habitat of the reporter and their oppo in tow, the snapper.
Handily, the perfumed presence of lavender plays a vital role in masking the smell of fear from the hack consigned to do the dreaded deathknock.
When you’re scraping content from news sites and reworking quotes (see Journalese: Copy) bear in mind, that the quotes you are lifting (or as lawyers call: stealing) have come from a hack who has had to camp out on a doorstep at some point. Often cold, often hungry, usually without cigarettes.
All news hacks of any worth have endured the moment the door opens (a mini-victory in itself) and the victim/survivor/bereaved stares back. What happens next pretty much defines your career in journalism.
Doorsteps fall into three basic categories The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.
The Good – The easiest; ones that even cub reporters get a bash at. Lotto winners, reunions and survivors. Guaranteed to yield the most hackneyed quotes of all time.
“I’m over the moon…..This win won’t change my life…..Its a miracle I survived slip on supermarket floor”
The Bad – The hardest. Deathknocks, deathknocks, deathknocks. For variety, the newsdesk may send you to interview a rape victim.
Expect to interview families of murder victims, families of relatives wiped out in road crashes, parents who have lost children, children who have lost parents, and the soon-to-die terminally ill or terminally ill children.
There are really only two types of reporter who can pull them off: empaths and sociopaths.
Anywhere in between and if a door does open, it will close with a thud, and sometimes a thump as well.
Only a few reporters are capable of putting their feelings completely on the line while keeping to the flinty brief of coming out of the house with the full nine yards of the tragedy and the all-conquering pictures that guarantee a splash (tabloid) or a nib (broadsheets). These are treasured by news editors and like a grubby chrysalis eventually morph into the butterfly which is a features writer.
If all else fails, desks send the sociopaths: these have done more doorknocks than had hot dinners appearing to exist solely on coffee, cigs and mouthwash. While their faces can emulate “sympathy-at-your-loss” it no longer extends to their eyes. However, once in the house, like cockroaches or kitchen designers, they are virtually impossible to remove.
If your doorstep goes badly and the victim slams the door in your face all is not lost. ‘Fuck off, you scab, how could you? Can’t you see how upset I am, we’re devastated’ effortlessly becomes:
‘Last night speaking exclusively to the Daily Hackloid, Selena Jones, 32, paid a moving tribute to her murdered husband/family. Visibly upset at the tragic news of her entire family’s slaughter, she bravely spoke of the pain and grief that she had to endure. ‘We’re devastated,’ said Mrs Jones, from her leafy £250,000 home.’
Add a cropped grab pic from the doorstep from your snapper and the news desk will just about forgive you. Spend the next few hours batting away rivals from the door saying Mrs Jones is not in/ called the police, and you might just get away with it.
The Ugly – The most fun. Nothing says more than a job well done than whipping up a lynch mob.
Fuelled by moral outrage, you are the public’s Exocet, sent to hunt out and reveal the lair/ lovenest/mansion (or homes, as they are known to the rest of the population) of a paedophile/villain/ lovecheat/corrupt politician
A staple of the Sunday newspaper, news editors reach for reporters who live in orbit of the office but never seem to return to base. These are the dying breed of investigative newspaper reporter, preferably divorced or single who exist with no other purpose than to find people.
Mouthwash, coffee and nicotine is also their staple diet
Once the target is found, you will have to insert yourself into the story since your villain is not going to start admitting any wrongdoing simply because a minty-smelling crumpled suit/trouser suit has asked them to reveal all. So the story will become less about what your villain has to say and instead the manner in which they tell you to ‘fuck off’.
Your equally anti-social nicotine fingered snapper will be on hand to capture the beautiful moment of you being assaulted, proving beyond reasonable doubt that your lovecheat is also ‘a violent thug’ who is a threat to the public at large – despite having lived cheek by jowl with the neighbours in uneventful harmony for decades.
Handily, despite ‘Fuck Off’ being your News Editor’s way of greeting you, sending you on a job or story pitch, it also proof definite that the criminal is a villain. This will be worth a splash with a picture of a hand in a lens (tabloid) or a report of invasion of privacy (broadsheet)
There’s a reason journalists refer to stories as copy.
Ctrl A, Ctrl C, Ctrl V
Look at any hack’s keyboard and you’ll find those keys worn and beaten. There are no finer practitioners of the art of cut & paste than today’s reporter. No website is safe, no library cutting sacrosanct if it can get a reporter out of the newsroom and into the pub quicker.
It was not always thus. In times of yore when trees were pulped, hacks physically beat out stories on tinnitus inducing typwriters. Actual stories were filed, in duplicate using carbon paper, and so the term ‘copy’ was born.
But there’s an important distinction.
Should you wash up in a newsroom you need to know the difference between a story, an article and copy.
A story is ‘what you’re working on’ when you’re not looking at facebook or tweeting about what a bastard your news editor is for clearly overlooking your brilliance by asking for yet another picture caption.
An article can be one of two things: a) the start of a complaint from a reader, or more worrying, their lawyer. As in
‘I was just reading an article in today’s paper…’
This usually ends with a phone being damaged, usually yours.
An article is also what comment and features editors commission from non-hacks who they need to convince that what they are doing is important.
Copy. That’s simple. It’s what you found on google, wikipedia and a quote you misheard on the evening news. Lash it up, bang it in and you’re good to go with a cheery:
I’ve filed my copy. If you need anything else, I’m on the phone. I’ve just got to go and meet a contact [drink beer/wine]
Thieves are not alone in having their own Cant. Newspapers are full of them. But enough about the Deputy Editor (see Survive Your Newsroom) Before your first bollocking has even made it past those quiz-winning tiny bones in your inner ear, your brain will likely be too confused from the Cant it has had to deal with on Day One In The Newsroom.
Because hacks love lingo. And their daily lives are peppered with seemingly impenetrable verbal shorthand impersonating words. Its clannish, exclusive – and marvellous. And if you want to get by on Day One In The Newsroom you’re going to need to read this guide. After all, off-stone is approaching and I’ve no time to slip for marks for second.