The Listener – a new all-time low
April 19, 2008
The good news is I would hope this is the lowest point The Listener can reach, so it’s all better from here. The bad news is, I fear the depths of nonsense to which this editor and her publishers may stoop.
Why is it so bad? Because newspapers and magazines live in fear of the lawyer’s letter. Every reporter I know worth their salt has been threatened by some lawyer or other. I’ve had a couple in my time (the last one, laughably, ended up with us all going out to dinner to discuss our differences, because they couldn’t afford lawyers. Not sure which is worse really).
Typically the lawyers are called out in a cowardly attempt to get a reporter to back down. A good editor and a decent publisher will bear the brunt of it, and I’m delighted to say in my last journalistic role I was blessed with editors and publishers alike who would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a reporter when such a need arose.
For a reporter it’s a terrible situation to be caught in. Meetings are held, often without your input. Older staff mutter about getting your own lawyer (all this for a story that you may have received as much 40 cents per word if you’re a freelancer) and the knot in your stomach grows and grows.
For a media house to use that kind of stand-over tactic against another publication is just unacceptable. We don’t need to stoop to the level of the lawyer to settle our differences… That’s what editorials are for. Use the tools of the trade to defend your position, to explain, to communicate. If you can’t do that, you’re not an editor I would bother reading, let alone writing for.