By John Dale. His book, 24 Hours In Journalism, is available on Kindle at a special launch price of £2.99. It will be in paperback this month.
What struck me most was the dedication. It went way beyond the normal call of duty. Necks were risked, lives put on the line, meals snatched, crafty fags sneaked. These sacrifices were made often for modest money, and all with one goal in mind.
The Story. In researching my book, I identified a journalistic impulse so powerful that in the end I was driven to compare it with our species’ most basic drives: hunger, thirst and sex. As with them, it too seemed essential to our survival.
This point is one we should keep bringing to our own attention during this period of self-doubt, and to that of our chief examiner who is sitting in Court 73 on the Strand.
By design, Lord Justice Leveson is in the job of identifying villains of our trade. By luck, I have had the pleasure of identifying not just the scumbags but also the heroes, and I can report that the latter exceed the former overwhelmingly.
Earlier this year, after listening to some of the most disturbing evidence, I set out to decontaminate myself by embarking on a simple strategy: to discover how the first draft of history is written. To do so, I decided to explore the hidden reality of ordinary mortals who are daily entrusted with such an extraordinary responsibility. In short, were the hacks up the job?
That was last February.
Like Leveson, I accumulated my evidence. Unlike Leveson, I was able to knock it out at speed whereas I imagine the poor judge works evenings by candlelight, quill in shaky hand, perched over a desk in the Inns of Court, attended by his manservant Robert Jay, QC, and consoled by the lady of the house, Carine Patry Hoskins.
We don’t know what Leveson’s conclusions will be. But I can reveal mine.
While there are one or two scumbags – at all levels – the words which kept springing to mind were ‘dedication’ and ‘commitment’. I only have space to name a random few on the remarkable Roll of Honour that I have been able to compile over 280 pages… Jenny Barsby, BBC Radio Kent; Louise Baty, freelance; Anita Bhagwandas, Stylist; Sam Blackledge, Dorking Advertiser; Peter Bowes, BBC Los Angeles; Louise Chunn, Psychologies; Jeremy Condliffe, Congleton Chronicle; Kevin Duffy, freelance; Greg Fidgeon, Yellow Advertiser; Graham Holliday, Reuters Rwanda; Gill Hudson, Reader’s Digest; Mike Leidig, Central European News; Malcolm Moore, Daily Telegraph Shanghai; Stephanie Preece, Worcester News; Helen Roberts, Delhi; Bob Satchwell, Society of Editors; Quentin Sommerville, BBC Afghanistan; Farrah Storr, Women’s Health…
The list numbers well over 100.
While others pontificated from ivory towers or the courtroom witness box, these were journalists who expressed themselves in deed rather than word, far removed from the Royal Courts of Justice.
It has been my privilege to record their intersecting lives over a 24-hour period.
As I did so, I realised it didn’t matter a jot whether any of them knew one another personally, because even at a distance they had something in common. They were all badge-wearing members of the same working fraternity. Journalist.