The ten best things about being a journalist

You may have noticed that my Twitter bio says that one of my aims is to help journalists love their jobs.

You may also have noticed that my last couple of blogs have been a potent cocktail of preachy and downbeat, focusing on issues such as mistakes and suicide.

Things need to change.

And so, on one of my many journeys around the countryside of the south west, I began to compile my Top Ten Best Things About Being a Journalist.

I have been helped to crystallise my thinking by my good friends at the Wells Journal, where I am working today.

So here goes:

1. No day is the same: Theoretically at least. You never know entirely what a day is going to throw at you. Dramas from coaches plunging down ravines to shopping centres exploding helped keep life interesting on the newsdesk where I last worked, in Bath. 

2. Meeting fascinating and lovely people: You get to know some of the bravest, most generous and most dedicated people in your community. If nothing else, their challenges and predicaments can put your own in healthy perspective. And then there’s all the celebs – from actors to politicians, and singers to writers.

3. You get invited into people’s lives: There is no greater privilege than being trusted to tell the story of someone’s life, particularly when that life has been cut short by tragedy. And there are plenty of other situations where people open up to journalists at sensitive and emotionally-charged times in their lives.

4. You get a ringside seat in history: A grand way of saying that we write the first draft of history, with privileged access at events from election counts to the Olympics.

5. Writing: The job involves one of the most satisfying things you can do sitting down. Shaping words to boil complex situations down into understandable and accessible English, or to paint a picture of a person ought to be a joy – and a source of pride.

6. Seeing your work in print or online: Following on from that, the sense of satisfaction from a job well done – whether as a writer, designer or photographer, or as a whole team – is hard to beat.

7. Being on the inside track: Despite the growth of social media, we are still often the first to find out about all kinds of activities, developments and issues. Plus there’s all that gossip and off-the-record intrigue which we’ve never quite been able to legally use.

8. Telling people things someone doesn’t want them to know: There’s nothing quite like the stony silence at the other end when you’ve bowled an unwelcome but legitimate curveball at a press officer, or the pointless pleading of some other form of officialdom. As Lord Northcliffe said: “News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising.”

9. Making a difference: We still do. Whether it’s simply helping someone to raise money for a good cause, or playing a part in the overthrow of a crooked councillor or dictatorial headteacher, what we write can change things for the better for an awful lot of people.

10. People and perks: As I have said before in a blog, when journalists try to string two words together at leaving dos, they almost always say they will miss ‘the people’ the most. There is a cruel camaraderie and an imaginative gallows humour that binds us to our colleagues through good times and bad. People who go into civvy street end up missing this the most, however much they gain in pay and work-life balance. And let us not deny the perks, whether they be festival tickets or free samples. 

So there you have it. If I’ve missed any out, tweet me @paulwiltshire.

And may you enjoy being a journalist for many more years to come.

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