I spoke to Mrs Angry last week.
She was the owner of a business inadvertently caught up in a minor chemical alert which brought a bit of excitement to the newsroom where I was working.
I’d never spoken to her before, and probably – perhaps hopefully – never will again.
But she had a clear view of me.
“I don’t want you to write anything. You’ll just twist the truth.”
Leaving aside the fact that she was asking me NOT to tell the truth by leaving out key information, I was slightly taken aback, even after more than 30 years of this kind of exchange.
Elsewhere in the week, I met some very, very nice people – and told their inspiring stories.
That word met is important, I think.
Getting more and more eyeballs on our journalism is clearly crucial.
But doing more eyeball-to-eyeball journalism is also key to restoring trust and to ensuring that the bonds between us and our audience are two-way, supportive and strong.
We have more information about our readers than ever before. We can track their eccentric, sometimes frustrating journeys across our websites, their reactions to our social media, their locations, and their daily habits. And, theoretically, they have more ways to contact us than ever before.
I say theoretically because, for a member of the public with a story – or heaven preserve us, a death notice – actually making your way into an actual news outlet office can feel akin to navigating the Crystal Maze.
We have virtual relationships with the people we serve and, as a Twitter addict, I firmly believe we can do great things on social media.
As I have said before, I am also a big fan of initiatives such as Behind Local News, which as well as explaining the way the regional media works, also celebrates the vibrancy of the long read, the sheer joy of working in a newsroom, and battles with ignorant politicians.
But there’s no doubt in my mind that we probably look our audience in the whites of their eyes less than we have ever done.
The really meaningful social interaction, the development of truly rich relationships, takes place face to face.
That’s why I’m left a bit cold by the revival – principally by Guardian writer Owen Jones – of the debate over diversity and media bias in our newsrooms.
There have been plenty of tremendous ripostes – not least from the wonderful Jen Williams of the Manchester Evening News.
And I also liked the response from two of my friends in that newsroom in which I was working last week.
Ahhh I’d love a natter with this chap! Yet the moral of the story would be for him to wind his neck in making assumptions about that journos that do a job well are ‘the middle class elite’. Nonsense-I do my job well because I am not the elite.
— Kim Horton (@HortonCitizen) August 26, 2018
There is something in what Owen says in that we do need more people with disabilities, more older people, and more people from ethnic minorities in our newsrooms.
But I’ve never seen greater dedication to giving a voice to the voiceless in those newsrooms. This, by my friend Michael Yong for Bristol Live, charting the deaths of the hidden homeless, is hugely encouraging.
No, to me, the real divide is between journalism that looks out and gets out and journalism that looks in and stays in.
It doesn’t matter where you’re from. It matters who you’re talking to, and how many eyeballs you’re notching up. And I don’t just mean on Chartbeat.