Sunday, December 04, 2005

My Rucksack and Beliefs

There’s a song by a Christian rock band called ‘Delirious’ that says that as Christians we stand for ‘peace, hope and justice.’ This little tricolon of ideals is not only true for the Christian but in many ways true for the whole of society and, in my case, true for the journalist. There is a feeling that the BBC is a little too liberal in its point of view and leans a little too far to the left. I think as Broadcast Journalists, who by law are not allowed to be partisan, this is somewhat inevitable as we look for the truth even in the smallest story and for speaking up for the minority. Thus, when clearing out my rucksack the other day, it occurred to me that this not only summarised my life but also my beliefs and, hopefully, those of my fellow hacks. I found the following items:

1. My Notebook
Well actually, I carry three notebooks at the moment. I have one for my Chesterfield patch, one for Sheffield news stories and a general rough one. The notebook is the most precious thing in the journalist’s possession. It is where they make the notes to ensure that we are honest and getting the full truth. It can be used in a court of law to defend what we say. Whilst as a broadcast Journalist you would think that the audio or camera tape would be more important, in reality the notebook is more important as it has the full record, as we saw in the Gilligan affair. His lack of use of a notebook called into question the justice and honesty of the media. So, wherever I go, I carry a notebook. You just never know when that big story will occur.

2. My Contacts Book
A trainee journalist with a contacts book? A little over the top? Well, no, actually. As I go around Chesterfield and Sheffield I meet people. They form useful contacts for news days. Indeed, when we were doing a news day last week, a big education story broke and I managed to track down the Sheffield Secretary of the NUT. I interviewed and his name went in the book. Just a week later, a group of Sheffield teachers voted to strike. I could instantly pass my contact onto the guy covering the story. Even at out level, the contacts book is essential. Returning to the Gilligan affair, he is often criticised by people for not naming his source. Amongst journalists, this is the one area where he can be defended as the naming of source breaks people’s confidence in journalists and makes future sources less likely to talk.

3. Pens and Pencils
I carry quite a few … you do not want to run out at the wrong moment!

4. A Diary
Time Management is at the heart of a journalist’s life. Ok, so I may be a little late for my Tuesday 9am law lectures but I have yet to be late to an interview. At the moment, trying to co-ordinate my life without one would be near impossible.

5. An Umbrella, hat and gloves
It’s cold and wet out there. Let’s be practical. There’s a famous clip of a journalist ending his report (and I forget his name) along the lines of ‘John Smith, BBC News, Cold Wet, 2 kids, mortgage and pissed off.’ So to at least to avoid some of these issues, a coat and umbrella means I can hang around in drafty halls or outside soggy council blocks so as to get the best and fairest story possible.

6. A lunch box
It’s said that an army marches on its stomach. Well, so does a journalist but often lacks the time to buy sandwiches (and money for that matter). The lunch box is essential.

7. Mini-Disks
Essential really. In the modern world we do not use tapes and are not up to MP3 so a large book like think which includes a minidisk recorder is our tool of choice. A bit heavy but quite good to use to push people out of the way to get to the front of a crowd. Does not cause too much damage. And also proves that we are just in our reporting.

8. Pen Knife, Tissues and Condoms
More useful than you would think. The penknife to put the camera back together as the tripod regularly falls a part. Tissues to clean the lens of the camera, the face of the journalist and dry of the wet mini-disk player. Condoms are the BBC standard issue so as to stop wind noise recording. I find turning my back to the wind helps more. The items have other uses. The Pen Knife is useful to cut sandwiches. The tissues can be used to wipe greasy finger from eating sandwich or blow nose. And I gather condoms have another use. Couldn’t possibly comment …

9. CD/Radio Player
Two reasons. Firstly, it can be very boring on a train … Secondly, at times you need to keep up to date with what else is happening.

10. A Book
Again, you can get bored. I’ve got Nick Hornby at the moment. Free with the Independent a month a go. Must get beyond page three.

11. Spare Batteries
For the CD player (train journeys are long) and for the mic.

12. Me?
Perhaps the journalist’s greatest asset is himself. Equipment is all well and good, training doubly so but the most important bit of reporting is me. The rucksack shows how I try to be prepared and my mentality towards the job in hand. However, just like any Christian, I have to fight for the peace, hope and justice. It’s a long battle.

Fighting the good fight, CJG x


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