In praise of edgy eccentrics in the newsroom

She once walked out of a staff meeting hosted by a new editor because she was bored.

She was picked up by an ambulance crew worried that she was walking home alone from work in the early hours of the morning.

And she once terrified a photographer by taking her to doorstep a house full of drug users where there had been an armed siege in the middle of the night.

She couldn’t cover complicated council budget meetings to save her life.

And yet she wrote stories of human tragedy and colour pieces on homelessness that could make a statue cry.

If she cared about an issue or a story, she poured her heart, soul and every other part of her psyche into it, with some of the most beautiful writing I have ever had the pleasure of news-editing.

But if she didn’t…………..

I was reminded of that reporter by the Kevin Pietersen affair.

I should add that there were never any ‘trust issues’ – whatever that strange phrase turns out to mean.

But there was a heady mixture of talent, danger and attitude at times.

I have always relished the challenge of managing potential members of the awkward squad. People who made me worry a bit.

As long as they have talent, I don’t mind a bit of attitude.

The worst possible combination, of course, is attitude and lack of talent.

That not so heady mix has crossed my path at times – but let’s not go there.

But the eccentrics, the mavericks, the surprises? As long as there’s not a whole office full of them, bring it on.

I remember a reporter who was constantly late – but who wrote great stories really well.

Another one who I once angrily told to ‘get the xxxx on with your work’ (different times, people, different times), who brought in amazing human interest exclusives.

Our profession is in constant danger of becoming a white, middle-class ghetto.

The last thing we need is newsrooms full of identikit stereotypes.

I’m glad to report that the ones which I visit are populated by the full gamut of human idiosyncracy.

I’m not sure I’d necessarily want to throw KP into the mix.

But there’s no doubt that the recipe for the perfect newsroom has to include a liberal dash of edgy eccentricity from time to time.


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