Reporting is a Trade, Sex is a Profession

Two quite different stories about the media got me thinking this week.

The first one outlined how sex trade workers in Vancouver are planning to get media training before the Winter Olympics come to town. They are tired of past experiences when as many as nine reporters in one day came down to the mean streets to get reaction to the latest murder or crime statistic.

no microphonesThose encounters usually went something like “Do you feel safe? Did your friends die? Are you on drugs?” And then, “Thanks for the story, see you later.”  The sex workers have finally realized they don’t have to submit themselves to a media mugging and are now learning what cops and judges already know about dealing with reporters.

And while the oldest profession was getting ready to tell reporters they don’t want to play, the Christian Science Monitor reminded us that journalism, in fact, is not really a profession.

“Journalists are not professionals with a unique base of knowledge such as professors or electricians,” according to the CSM on-line article which went on to explain that the value that reporters used to provide – accessing news sources, sorting and conveying information – has been usurped by the Internet.

While the article then suggested how the news business could adapt to provide “value for consumers”, I kept thinking of the sex trade workers. They may be the last bastion of people who are fed up with the tactics reporters sometimes use to get a story at any cost.

When I was a journalist, I believed the “public” had a right to know . . . well, anything I thought they should know. That gave me a license to go hard on the questioning if I thought someone was hiding information. Like all reporters I developed tricks to pull people “off message” and get a clip that fit better into the story I was trying to write, regardless of what the person was trying to say.

Since I left journalism, I’ve media trained more than a thousand people and not one of them was a bad person trying to pull the wool over a reporter’s eyes. But they were all smart enough to know that reporters play with a stacked deck and, without preparation, an interview can go very badly.

There’s a lot of consternation these days about newspapers dying off and how awful it would be if there were no reporters. I guess I agree. If there were no reporters, I’d have to find another job.

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