Explaining journalists’ bad behaviour

Underpaid, overworked and suffering from character defects, Tim Burrowes justifies the foibles of journalists.

Most journalists I know have one thing that unites them. They could all make more money if they chose to do something else instead.

From early in your career, there’s a 10 grand pay rise to be had if you cross over into PR. That premium rises with experience, particularly when political advisor roles start opening up.

But I suspect there is a certain type of journo who would never be happy doing anything else – and neither would they fit in.

In part it’s because of the job; the personality type it attracts, or possibly creates. These people are one of the factors that make newsrooms such interesting places. This is the seductive thing about journalism. You may be stressed, underappreciated, underpaid or overworked. But I know very few journalists who complain of boredom.

It’s also a profession that tolerates a greater level of eccentricity – indeed celebrates it – than any other. Good writers or story getters will be forgiven character defects that would see them sacked in other industries.

A leaning towards the lastminute that would seem unacceptably sloppy in another office is seen merely as deadline surfing in journalism. The reason so few journalists actually write that book they’re always talking about is, I suspect, because they’ve become so hooked on immediate deadlines. I include myself in that. The only way I’ll ever write a book is if I deliver it to 100 daily deadlines of 700 words a time.

Journalists get to behave in a way society would otherwise frown upon. It comes out of bloody mindedly chasing stories but leads to behaviour that often ends up bordering on rude. It’s encouraged because what’s needed is
fearlessly demanding answers from authority.

But it also manifests itself in hostility to those innocents on the phone spruiking a press release. Which is why I’ll never switch to PR. Being polite to those journalists would kill me.

This piece first appeared in Encore magazine. Subscribe to the print edition here or download the iPad edition here.

Encore Magazine - MoGeneration Pty Ltd


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