Saturday, August 11, 2012

The fat and comfortable gang up on an idealistic youngster

I was old and cynical by the time I became a journalist.

Not so old, I guess: I was in my late 20s. Not so cynical, either. But I had previously worked in the security industry and rock & roll. I would have been hard to shock*, even in a place like the Herald-Sun newsroom that shocked a young intern so much she wrote about it.

The piece isn't all that good - yet every glass jaw in the country feels itself personally assaulted by an impersonal and originally anonymous rant. Fools formed a queue to try the shoe on, just in case it fitted and they could take a swipe in return.

I find myself more in sympathy with Sasha Burden and all her faults – in spite of her over-sensitivity,  inexperienced writing, and the rest – than to align with a collection of fogies old and young explaining why she’s wrong.

So far, criticisms of her boil down to the following:
“That’s just how things are, put up with it”
“Keep it in the family”
“She should have done X”
“Get inside the system before you change it”
"When I were a lad..."

…and so on.  Strip away the indignation and self-justification, and everybody is giving Ms Burden a paraphrase of "don't rock the boat".

Why the hell not? 

If Ms Burden’s approach is wrong, and you know the right way to change the world, then how come, in 2012, the world remains unchanged?

As for the the “harden up” argument – “it’s what I put up with when I was 20”. In other words, journalists who are now fat and forty don’t want their consciences priced for their own (natural) cowardice when they were twenty.

If the Herald-Sun had the balls it professes, it would recognize a troublemaking ratbag who has the basics of a writer. The proper rejoinder to Ms Harden is a job offer. “You know better? Here’s the rope. You can climb it or hang by it.”

(*Actually, the most shocking workplace I ever entered was the old international telephone exchange at Paddington, in an era where international operators still existed. Their habitual conversation taught me things about blue language - and human anatomy - that made each day an agony of blushing.)

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