A funny thing happened to me on the way into the city today.
I was waiting for a taxi when two business-dressed men approached looking very keen to get to their next meeting.
“Are you waiting for a cab,” one asked.
I know I was leaning against a lamppost in a notorious area called The Valley – but it clearly said “TAXI” on it.
“I am,” I replied.
“Where are you going, into the city?”
“Well share one with us.”
Now I’m not one to jump into a cab with complete strangers ordinarily, but what harm could I get into in a taxi?
It was obvious they were in a hurry – and they had a cabcharge (a prepaid taxi voucher).
I offered to pay something towards it (despite being aware of the afore mentioned cabcharge which meant they probably weren’t paying for it either) but they said “no”.
So a cab arrives and in we get.
I could have happily spent the ten minute journey in silence but one of them decided to strike up a conversation.
“So are you off shopping?”
“No actually I’m going to work.”
“Oh what do you do?”
And there it was – that fatal question.
“I teach at QUT.”
Why didn’t they just leave it there?
“What do you teach?”
Now despite various scandals, popular myths and almost total misrepresentation in film and TV depictions of my profession, I am proud of my industry and so I answered honestly.
OK, I have to admit, it is a bit of a sport as well!
There were two sharp intakes of breath and a nervous giggle from the taxi driver.
And me, being a typical journalist, had noted the address they had given to the driver so couldn’t resist my next line.
“And as you are going to xxxxx I take it you work for the new State Government?”
Another couple of sharp intakes of breath … another giggle and a wink to me from the driver.
“Which department?” I asked casually.
It’s funny isn’t it how people judge and immediately make assumptions about you based solely on your profession?
Did they really think I would uncover some dark truth about their department/minister in a ten minute cab ride and then publish it and bring down the government?
OK if it was a movie I’m sure I would have done, because there would have been a document I could just see poking out of the top of one of their folders marked “Top Secret” and as I can read upside down (a special trait of all journalists) I would have read two key names with the words “Scandal – not for publication” next to them.
Also, I would somehow (not noticed by either man) have been able to pull out my smartphone and take photos of them both.
If only it was that easy!
I have personally been blamed for all kinds of things including the death of Princess Diana – just because I am a journalist.
And sadly, I have been forced to leave friends’ parties because of the abuse to which you can be subjected when some people assume they know more about your profession than you do.
But I ask those people, how many journalists do you really know?
Talk to us – not because we’ll expose your life in some sleazy article (that’s the fodder of soap operas), but because you’ll find out we’re quite human, that we don’t have agendas, that most of the stories we tell have helped people in some way and that often the story has come about because someone wanted to talk to us about it in the first place.
As my husband, a fellow journalist, often says: “How many professions can you go to for help without being charged?”
Doctors, lawyers, accountants? I think not.
Cynics would say: “No – because you pay them.”
I can hand on heart say I have never worked for a news organisation that has paid for comments or an interview, and still we have had many exclusives.
I have never written a story about a friend or colleague – without their consent and cooperation. I wouldn’t have any friends if I did.
In fact, more often than not the case is they want you to write stories about them and you have to politely turn them down!
Anyway back at the cab.
We reached the city and the taxi pulled up to drop me off.
“Now you can write favourably about us,” said one of the men.
So gentlemen of whom I know nothing and can write very little and expose absolutely zilch.
I thank you and the State Government for the free cab ride.
There I’ve written favourably about you.
Now you can think better of journalists!
P.S. A quick search of the address on the internet immediately revealed the department & minister.
You don’t need to be a journalist to do that.