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.
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)
Again, your work here is done.
Categories: Journalese, A User's Guide