Lifestyle section: How to burn 17 calories every 15 minutes*

I’ve been reading some articles on various lifestyle subjects from how to eat a cheese sandwich to how chefs are making their plates a little plainer and how to sow a wildflower meadow.

I feel uplifted. It is imagined, of course, that we all aspire (there’s that word again!) to be the demographic that can’t decide whether to rent or sell that irritating additional property or really want to know how to be happy.

I’ve written these things myself over the years so I don’t condemn those doing it now. I remember phases of having to think of time scales for stories – you know the sort of thing, ‘lose fourteen stone in a fortnight’ or ‘one week from meeting to wedding’.

But it seems especially vacant and irrelevant in times of austerity. Chaplin is skint

As queues to food banks double and is worse than other European countries I can’t help but think wordy articles on the best bacon or the poshest crisps is verging on offensive.

As Shelter states that in England, more than 81,000 households were found to be homeless during 2013/14 perhaps articles on how to spruce up your bathroom are, at the very least, insensitive.

And, while Joseph Rowntree Foundation says the average cost of a school uniform and PE kit is £224.69 while the average local authority grant for school uniform is just £51.27 maybe articles on which fashions are bang on trend for toddlers is a but ugly.

It’s aspirational journalism, of course. The profit-driven industry needs it to get advertising. It needs you to want to aspire to buy what is being peddled and to feel better for having engaged with the magazine, paper or website.

I sat at my desk once, listening in despair, as it was decided a local free paper would no longer be delivered to a poorer area because, well, no one there could afford what the advertisers were selling. Stuff informing, forget democracy – these poor people had no disposable income.

As a cub reporter I could be all Daily Planet-dramatic and say a story was more important than an ad and see said ad removed from the page but within a decade and I was being told by advertising sales staff, “you know who pays your wages, right?”

Aspiration and a media dependent on income from advertising means features too often lack relevance to the lives of many. Salford StarIncluding the people who write them …

… at this point I would like to point out that many journalists earn a pittance!

 The Guardian did recently provide a “seven ways to take action” against austerity guide. Credit where it’s due. It was written by Cait Cross is from UK Uncut, though, and not the paper so, in the current shifting “business model” that is journalism, I’m unsure if it was paid for …

This type of attention-grabbing, time-tied, easy to digest journalism is especially effective for magazines because it can be planned ahead, it can be created rather than researched and, significantly, the journalists doesn’t have to move from the office to do it so it’s comparatively cheap.

I feel I could still contribute to this type of journalism given the chance and my current view from the scrapheap gives me a unique perspective.

  • What to wear when the wolf is at the door
  • How an empty fridge can help you diet
  • What tea to drink when opening debt letters
  • How to cope with spending too much time with the cat
  • Keep fit while watching afternoon telly
  • How to avoid job application RSI

But – more seriously – there are some efforts being made to report what is really going on in communities, to genuinely discuss “lifestyles” without the Labour/Tory aspiration rhetoric and the influence of advertisers.

Over at Contributoria Conrad Bower wants to write about the Manchester Homeless Camp campaign – and you can vote to help him do it. Byline hosts any journalistic work, regardless of ideology or subject and is funded by readers. Salford Star repeatedly irritates the council with some hard-hitting journalism while also having a laugh and is currently selling a new batch of publications. And there’s The Conversation, describing itself as a collaboration between editors and academics to provide informed news analysis and commentary that’s free to read and republish and a not for profit educational entity.

You might also want to see my post on the food of the Gods: mushy peas. It’s not hard-hitting journalism but, by heck, you’ll fancy some for your tea later!

*Oh … you burn 17 calories every 15 minutes just by lying on the settee. Unemployedhack – bringing you aspiration and education.

Back to the future …

When the images of Mungo, Partridge and The Woman on the Left are no more than reminders on a visual hacking timeline I hope journalists can enjoy an industry that is reformed, radical and read.

Now is an exciting time for journalism – despite the attacks on us, the jealous wannabe journos insulting us on Twitter. We’re seeing a potential return to traditional news values in digital form: when journalists didn’t fear being partial and subjective but wrote about topics more important than a celebrity’s weight gain. We’re seeing a potential return to writing stories which stem from the community and are more interested in people’s views than chasing a profit.

It’s a time when political activism and journalism is revealing inequalities and injustice, as Annie Besant did, as George Orwell did, as John Pilger did and, whatever you make of him as an individual, as Assange did when he worked with the New York Times to expose journalists and civilians being killed by US troops in Iraq in 2007.

Journalists today exposed the MPs expenses, it is journalists that exposed hacking at the News of the World, journalists that have exposed and demanded a discussion of police brutality, global occupations and revolutions.

The establishment has every need to feel afraid. It’s no surprise we’re being painted as the enemy because this is convenient: if we’re dismissed as scruffy yobs rifling through celebrity bins then the public won’t trust us when we expose the rubbish of the powerful.

Even sitting here, in my jamas, I can use my journalistic skills to enjoy writing, share my opinions, add to the exposure of Currie’s attitude towards the poor in this country – and talk about my cat. But we don’t need more citizen journalism and blogging – we still need vigorous training, for journalists to use that training to investigate and report on issues in a way that is interesting and of value to readers.

Genuine errors are easily corrected

The old journalism of chopping down trees, distributing reams of paper, door to door deliveries might be dead but journalism isn’t. It’s more exciting than ever.

Good journalists still find an issue, or it is brought to their attention (without listening to personal phone calls), and they investigate it, doing their best to get a variety of opinions then integrate those opinions into a news report which is of value to readers … you can’t do that when discussing the colour of the lycra stretched across Madonna’s gusset. Or they share their experiences and opinions from an intelligent, informed perspective.

And while modern speeds of reporting might lead to errors these are easily corrected if they’re honest mistakes, not deliberate silliness.

We need critical, investigative journalism that keeps the powerful in check and the sort of training that would make a trainee journalist confident beyond writing about celebrity lifestyles. We need this, we need journalism, not for all journalists be used as scapegoats.

There is no question that the hacking is repugnant to readers and journalists alike but Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan can’t dictate how journalism works – adding to the voices of ad executives and businesspeople already ruining the trade.

Celebrities might fear embarrassing stories but a good journalist couldn’t care less about who Steve Coogan sleeps with – but while news is profit-driven, run by businesspeople not journalists, and the news of the screws sells papers, then owners will want those stories. A shift towards good journalism could even see poor journalists fall by the wayside.

She would’ve reported from a police kettle

People enjoy eye-witness, up-to-the-minute, fast-moving news: the riots alone proved that. Local newspapers used Twitter to keep their thousands of followers informed, then again to tell what was going on in court and now, in some cases, are contributing to the discussion of the injustice that took place during arrests and sentencing. This is traditional journalism working in a digital age.

I genuinely don’t believe everyone wants daily exposure to which celebrity is going into the jungle, which has lost weight or split with their celebrity lover, whether eating red food while wearing green will give you cancer or if a footballer had sex.

I genuinely believe the vast majority of people in this country want something worth reading.

Plans today: Complete job interview preparation and, of course, watch the news and view some papers online. I’m now watching a BBC report on concerns about the type of tear gas being used against protesters in Egypt – which I first read about last night on Twitter

Barking mad …

I think a neighbour’s cat has left half a mouse at my front door: word of my poverty is spreading. I fear what the local toms will do on realising how bored I am and I wonder how one tells a cat your tree-climbing days are behind you.

I’ve a week ahead with absolutely nothing to do. This used to be a dangerous situation to be in. Nothing to do meant no stories, nothing to do meant an angry editor, nothing to do meant attending the editorial meeting with no ideas: nothing to do could mean being out on your ear for, well, have nothing to do.

I wonder if this is what led reporters on the Billericay Gazette to write an unpleasant story attacking a respectable teacher for her personal social networking comments. The story is about a celebrated teacher who swore on Twitter, with comments like, “How easily I slip into the default mode of lazy slut.” I find her comments particularly unshocking as I sit here, in a HP sauce-stained T-shirt and jogging bottoms, with a brew, a bacon butty and no plans.

The teacher didn’t swear at pupils or parents but in personal comments to friends as many of us do on a daily basis without expecting to make the news. [Post edited due to correction – and bit of an insult – from the newspaper in question.]

I began to wonder about the “worst” thing I’d done as an eager and brutal young hack. I will say again that we often write for our editors, we do things to keep our jobs, to stop being bullied but perhaps this seems lame: especially as Murdoch pays out a few million for seemingly routinely hacked phones.

Educating Essex

I don’t think my lowest ebb was the standard taking of family photo albums to ensure no one else could have them, or the casual fibs that one could keep the harder hacks at bay if trusted as the only reporter to cover the story, or even occasionally making things up.

Perhaps it was being chased from a hospital, having snuck into the chapel to interview nurses grieving over the tragic death of a colleague. With only a few generic quotes about how much she’d be missed me and the photographer had grown desperate but soon found ourselves shame-faced and mortified, sitting silently in the car. Mind you, we were still wondering where to get the story.

Perhaps it was traipsing village streets to get someone, anyone, to talk to me about the tragic death of a schoolboy. I’d already checked the estate agent window to put a price on his parents’ house, had a few comments from neighbours using the words “kept themselves to themselves” and could describe the view from the school gates. I needed more.

When I spotted the local church I thought a quote from the priest would be perfect and easy to get. I’d not heard the reporters gathered in the pub mention anything about him so also thought I could have an exclusive quote. If I was really lucky this lad was in the choir and there’ be pictures too.

I walked up the path, as solemnly as one can when excited about getting a great quote and matching photos, and knocked on his door. I waited. I could see movement behind the stained glass window; a shuffling, a shooing and then footsteps towards the door.

“Hello I’m a reporter, I wanted to talk to you abou- ”

Before I could finish my sentence the priest had whistled, mumbled something, then stepped aside while his dog ran down the hall towards me. I span and fled, hack mac flying behind me, back down the path towards the gate. I’ve never been athletic but managed to outrun the mutt. In fact, when I turned around it was a mutt and not the Rottweiler I’d been picturing. I was shamed-faced and humiliated again but now had a long walk back to the car.

As ambition waned and wisdom grew, I calmed down: most hacks do. They start to stand up to bullying editors, realising the boss knew they had an ice-cube in Hell’s chance of getting the story in the first place. It takes confidence, professionalism, experience and a genuine understanding of journalism to stand up to editors – some of whom lack all these qualities. Trainees aren’t always getting the confidence-boost they need from adequate training these days – they even go unpaid on internships. So long as journalists work in fear they will produce tacky journalism to please tacky editors and proprietors.

Then, if they’re really unlucky, they find themselves unemployed and on the scrapheap watching the news, wishing they were in the middle of the action instead of on the settee with another brew in hand.

They find themselves reminiscing – and wondering if the Dean of St Paul’s has a dog.

Amount of money I have: £2.25 till tomorrow

Other money I have: I found 25 Euros, $10 and some obscure foreign currency

Job applications to be completed this week, so far: 2