WARNING: This article contains references to September 11 2001 and the role of the media in it. Feel free to criticise the merits of this article, but having been warned, please don’t flame me for broaching a sensitive topic. –Scarlett.
For uni, I have a series of practical assessments where I have to come up with story ideas and follow them through during the business day and hand it a professional story at the end of the day, during which I usually have my editor on my ass on how to make it fresh. Thinking of ideas that haven’t already been done always gives me a restless night, and when I do sleep, my dreams are always somewhat bizarre, no doubt from anxiety to meet the ultra-competitive standards of professional.
In the last one, I was at my local train station, and some young man had decided to jump across the tracks as the train rolled in. This created a youth-Kamikaze movement of people running across the tracks, which led to great havoc and distress among the other people at the platform. Meanwhile I, starved for a story, was in the thick of things, taking pictures with my camera phone and getting names and numbers to use as contacts. The biggest story to hit my city since it was founded in eighteen-something, and I, a student journalist, was in the middle of it.
I apologise if this sounds cold, but I imagine it would be like being a journalist who just happened to be a few hundred meters away from the twin towers when the planes hit them on September 11. I’m in the middle of a tragedy but it’s my professional obligation to make the most of it and get the word out. I was going to win a Walkie; I was going to win a Pulitzer.
And then I woke up, and for a few seconds I was sorry that it was only a dream, because that would have been a damn good scoop.
Of course, I’m glad no-one start a youth-Kamikaze movement across the train tracks, even if I would have befitted from it professionally. But for a brief period of time while I was still waking up I was sorry I wasn’t going to become the next John Pilger over it.
Only when I related it, as a joke, to my editor a few hours later, he was horrified that for a few seconds I was sorry “˜it was only a dream’. And it got me wondering, after reading the comments about Cameron on House, if women are conditioned to be placid and peace-making, and men are conditioned to think of women as such.
In one of my comments I confessed to feeling guilty over secreting away what could have been a valuable contact, and that many men would have trouble understanding why I felt guilty about acting in line with media’s ultra-competitiveness. I wonder if part of my editor’s response was to the idea that woman’s immediate reaction was regret that she hadn’t been the sole possessor of such a scoop
I wonder if male photographers feel bad, on a professional level, that they weren’t in France when Princess Diana died, even if, as human beings, they wish she were still alive?
Are female journalists held to much higher standards of empathy when something bad happens? Is it unfeminine for female journalists to see the newsworthiness in a tragedy?
Or maybe it was just that I was honest about such a bizarre, violent dream and the cold ambition it often takes to succeed in the media when most people wouldn’t be.