Hollywood is a fan of journalists. On the screen at least. Journalists, Hollywood would have you believe, live an adrenaline-filled life, travel the world undercover and dismantle the most obscure of plots. Journalists are part of the select heroes who, in typical Hollywood cliche, save the world. The truth is much more mundane and but also much more exhilarating.
In 24 Hours in Journalism (link to Amazon), journalist John Dale dwells into his own profession. He meticulously chronicles 24 hours of the lives of a myriad of journalists. From the editor of the Mirror, to that of the Daily Mail, from the 37-week pregnant freelancer to the opinionated sports writer, from the politics columnist to the war reporter in Afghanistan, Dale showcases the fraternity which we are all proudly a part of.
I love those sort of insights into lives of other people. I love to see how people think and observe how they go about things. Seeing things from other people’s points of view is educational. But this book goes so much further than providing insights. Dale subtly shows us the struggles of a freelancer desperately trying to make ends meet as well as the sudden decline of an ex-News of the World reporter who nobody wants to employ due to his past phone hacking crimes. Dale also makes sure that we see how fast paced the industry is with some editors working for 14 hours straight while others struggle juggling between family and last-minute assignments. Through the lives of journalists, Dale paints the world of our industry.
Ultimately, the reason why this book is a must-read is simply because it gives an honest view of journalists. Not the Hollywood glorified version (although Vogue’s editor is quite the superstar). And this is the most thrilling part. It’s inspiring and motivational. Because it really shows us that we are all part of something big. We are all part of the same fraternity (yes, that word again).
24 Hours in Journalism sadly only chronicles the life of one science reporter, and fleetingly so at that. It’s unfortunate but on some levels it does not really matter. A science journalist is a journalist first and foremost and as such will connect with fellow journalists and editors.
But we can rectify the unfortunate underrepresentation of science journalists. Dale will be publishing a sequel to 24 Hours in Journalism and we can participate in this global endeavour. Judging by the popularity of his first book, the sequel looks to be an ideal opportunity to illustrate the importance, hardwork and gratification attached to science journalism. And who knows, we may inspire a few people to become science journalists by showing them the real wonder---a wonder that Hollywood will never grasp.
“Journalism, with its borderless pursuit of ideas and information, is more like an ill-defined superstate, a subversive wrapping overlaying most of the planet, sceptical and disagreeable, inconveniently speaking truth unto power. Most journalists, even the parochial, intuitively feel membership of this omnipresent fraternity, their loyalty to its ideals trumping allegiances to nation states. To them the job title ‘journalist’ is both a badge of honour and an entry card to a vast international network committed to high principles rather than low pragmatism; the annoying, preachy sibling of politics. They wear their badge with pride, the sign of the cussed and the troublemaker. This journalistic superstate exists in culture as much as in constitutions, and has flourished hugely with the growth of the internet. Its strength is in its size, spread and diversity, uncontrolled and now uncontrollable.” - Jon Dale.