Dear Dr Deadline 02-05-03

Dear Doctor Deadline,

I’ve become a reporter for a magazine that covers the drugs manufacturing industry. It’s an interesting field, but sometimes I feel uneasy about the impact this industry has on people’s lives and the ethics of the main players. Should I feel any sense of loyalty or even affection for the industry that I am writing about? Should I be concerned that it, in effect, pays my wages?

Name and address supplied

Now this is an interesting dilemma.

It reminds Dr D of a young reporter he once knew of who was working for a B2B magazine covering the road transport industry. Her mother was killed after being hit by a truck whose brakes had not been properly maintained. After much soul searching she realised she couldn’t continue as an objective reporter on that industry – and indeed she used her knowledge of it to set up a pressure group lobbying for greater road safety.

Although yours is hardly the same dilemma, the key question is the same. Are you able to be objective in your reporting? A healthy dose of scepticism is often a great help to many reporters. Neither is there any reason for you to feel more beholden to the industry you cover than you would to the police if you were a local crime reporter. Your readers don’t pay their subscription so they can just read feel-good stories about themselves. They do it to find out what’s going on in their industry – including the bad stuff – usually in a more comprehensive form than the rest of the media has the space or expertise to offer.

But if you feel that scepticism has turned into hostility, then maybe you are in the wrong job. But think about this too. If there is real wrongdoing to be unearthed, you’re in just about the perfect position to do it – even if you end up publishing it elsewhere.

MORE ON THE AGE DEBATE

Dear Dr Deadline,

In most news stories and features the age of the participants – and sometimes the writer – is important because it is an economical way of revealing a great deal about the person and what has shaped their attitudes and opinions. If I were described as being 65 you would know that I had some recollection of the Second World War and at least hazy memories of the “Swinging Sixties”. I would remember when male homosexual acts were illegal, when the Pill was invented, the Women’s Liberation movement and – oh joy! – when girls wore stockings. In stories about celebrities age matters simply because we want to know.

Yours sincerely, Robin Corry

Dr Deadline returns in two weeks

lNext week: Cross Head

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