To paraphrase Woody Harrelson from his famous (Iconic? Remember how that cliche, a reporter’s favourite, sucks!) even-a-brick-wants-to-be-something lecture to his architecture class in Indecent Proposal, even a source wants to be taken seriously; respected as a friend, fellow-traveller, the anonymous joint byline with your story. Not just a use-and-discard disposable, perishable as your last story. You will need to keep going back to the same sources, and the more seriously they take you, the more they will share with you. Investing in these intellectual and professional relationships is as vital to our development as reporter-writers as the good old contact-laden Rolodex or some modern equivalent.
The use of that hyphenated reporter-writer is deliberate. Because just as our jobs are expanding, so is the catchment of talent. Opinion writers, analysts, commentators, feature writers, reviewers, and most importantly, selfless journalists, who not only buff your copy or put in special effects but also infuriate you by asking questions, raising red flags, insisting on that little bit more information, are as important to the modern newsroom as we reporters are. The newsroom has integrated faster editorially, than it has technologically. We never were the elite that we thought we were. Today we are even less so, and the old-fashioned scoop, though not dead, is harder to find and almost impossible to sustain.
We now live in a much more equal, much fairer newsroom. The old caste system has happily ended. The only extra blessing reporter-writers have is that of the byline. But they are also the ones putting their necks on the line. With so much change in our lives, you will agree I no longer speak as a fellow tribal. Can I find a new, more relevant analogy for this equation?
No, don’t worry, it will not be from the Air Force, or from military history yet again. It is from cricket, our most universally favourite reference of all. Think of the modern newsroom as a cricket team where all 11 — bowlers, batsmen, all-rounders and the wicket-keeper — play equally important roles, and everybody must field well too. And where the captain is on test in all areas, always. You can decide which one of these roles fits you. I am not so sure myself. Except, I do believe a reporter’s life is more fun than before, and how I wish I was younger, and could go back to being one again.
But since such wishes are never granted, I am blessed, meanwhile, living my reporter’s fantasies through the brilliant work done by all of you.