I’ve just marked my 40th anniversary as a journalist. It’s been an interesting journey.
I won’t dwell on stories, anecdotes and incidents that may or may not be of interest. Maybe another time. There are certainly some wrong ‘uns that need to be put straight.
Instead, and especially for any youngsters considering a career in journalism, I’ve compiled a list of 10 guiding principles that I’ve picked up and tried to adhere to over the years:
Be sceptical, but not cynical. Don’t be an apologist for those who tell lies or make excuses.
Be prepared to be disliked. No one should become a journalist to win the popularity stakes. Influencers are not journalists.
Be patient. Not easy in the quick-fire world of social media. But take time to check, ponder and re-assess. It will pay off in the end.
Be willing to sacrifice style and flamboyance for simplicity and accuracy. Great writing means nothing if it is based on false information.
Be thorough, do your homework and know your subject. It may not win you friends, but it will earn you respect.
Be respectful and impartial, even towards those with opinions and behaviour that are not to your liking. You may learn something.
Be honest with yourself and your publisher. Don’t exaggerate and never mislead.
Be available. News never sleeps, or takes a holiday. If you hesitate, you’ll lose.
Be a journalist not a salesman. Don’t allow yourself to promote other people’s goods and services. Remember the old adage that news is generally about things people don’t want you to publish – all else is advertising.
Be a listener. The journalist who does all the talking never gets the story.