Earlier this year former magazine editor John Dale asked journalists around the world to send him their accounts of their lives on one day chosen at random, Wednesday, February 8.
The result was 24 Hours In Journalism, a glorious romp through a broad spectrum of the media – freelances, editors, columnists, war correspondents, lecturers, unemployed hacks, keen work exes, agony aunts and many more – all united in their belief in journalism and their commitment to their chosen path.
These are not the phone-hacking scumbags that many associate with the trade. We get to see the hopes, fears, passions, highs and lows of real journalists operating in real time. Some of them are making history. Some of them are making the tea. All of them are contributing in some way to our greater understanding of the world we live in now.
All human life is here. There are conjoined twins and love rats. Risky missions and military manoeuvres. Council meetings and maternity leave. Glamorous launches and meagre lunches. Dale even gives a brief mention to The Oldie magazine’s largely ignored report into Jimmy Savile’s predilections for young girls
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I enjoyed the sections from local and regional newspapers the most. They captured perfectly the small stories which are the big stories for the communities involved, like the quest to decipher a scrawled signature on a winning raffle ticket.
While I found the book quite hard-going at first (it’s so over-written in parts that I was actually cringeing), once I got used to the writing style I couldn’t put it down. There were times when I wanted to stand up and cheer (as I did during the “ink on their fingers” scene in the film State of Play) and there were others where my heart just went out to the people involved.
It’s hard to believe that all this happened in just one day, but of course, news is everywhere, all the time. Turn any stone and you’ll find a story. These journalists will get up tomorrow and do it all again, in the knowledge that today’s hard work will be lining hamster cages across their communities in no time at all. But they know that what they do matters. I found it a very inspiring and uplifting book, despite all the changes sweeping the media landscape.
* John Dale is doing it all again next year from 6am on Monday, March 11, to 6am on Tuesday, March 12. He is, he says, interested in “quiet, routine days” as well as drama and conflict, “local journalists as well as big shots”. For more information see http://www.24hoursinjournalism2013.com/