Wanting to cover a murder trial doesn’t make you a bad person



Gloucester Crown Court: geograph.co.uk


I’ve been in court a lot recently.

Not in the dock, you understand.

In the public galleries – up in the gods in one case – of Gloucester Crown Court and Cheltenham Magistrates Court.

All human life is there, with great stories at every turn for my students to have a go at.

But even so, they want more.

To be precise, they want to be in on the most serious court cases imaginable.

The ones involving deaths.

The ones where you get to look straight into the eyes of an alleged murderer.

It’s grisly stuff, and not the sort of thing that impresses some people.

But I’m not some people. I’m a journalist.

I don’t ever want anyone trained by me to be wishing for bad news, to be for even a millisecond treating real tragedy and heartache as mere journalistic fodder.

But, as I told one student on the way to court the other day, being interested in covering a murder case doesn’t make you a bad person.

It’s clear that we journalists do sometimes have a different outlook on life than people in Civvy Street, as the great David Randall so eloquently says in a blog.


But I still maintain that journalists can be the nicest people in the world – full of kindness, emotional intelligence and an ability to see the best in folk. Genuinely.

As well as being more interesting than almost any other category of worker.

It’s about the overwhelming desire to explain the world

It’s not about ghoulishness.

It’s about the overwhelming desire to explain the world, to make sense of things, to understand why people do what they do – and that includes the worst acts imaginable.

I’ve been talking a lot about privacy and intrusion to another group of students.

I highlight a blog I wrote a couple of years ago about covering bereavement.

And I tell them that there are few greater feelings in journalism than the knowledge that you have covered a good life well.

That might just be a fascinating obit.

But it’s more likely to be a sensitive tapestry of tributes and facts about someone taken suddenly from their loved ones.

The stakes are never higher with that sort of writing – which means the sense of satisfaction is right up there, too.

The best journalists are completely fascinated by life and by people. 

We can’t limit our storytelling mission to explain. 

All human life – and death – has to be there.  




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