Friday, August 10, 2012

Newsrooms, Glass-Jaws and "Anonymous" Interns

The Farrago's Editorial team and room. (University of Melbourne)
A couple of days ago there was quite a bit of drama on Twitter after a certain "anonymous" young “upstart” from the University of Melbourne's Farrago newspaper dared to call News Ltd's Herald Sun a “hetero-normative” publication.  Apparently the young journalism student (a.k.a. "Intern") in question had taken offence from the fact that newsrooms can occasionally be the breeding ground of dark humour and other forms of bleak comedy, predominantly due to the high levels of stress, tension and tragedy that pass through a newsroom's hallowed walls on a daily basis.

While that doesn't excuse homophobia, transphobia, sexism and other forms of directed personal abuse within the workplace as veterans like Mark Colvin have stated, the presence of such comedy is the sign of a relatively healthy newsroom once you realise that it means that journalists and other media professionals are talking through the emotional traumas that most have to witness or experience on a daily basis. We all know that there's a lot of really gruesome and disturbing content that Journalists have to pursue and then edit out, before a broadcast ever goes to air or a newspaper goes to print. While the public may get a sanitised version of events as they are occurring, more often than not Journalists don't, which can lead to some pretty serious mental health issues down the road if they don't have a coping mechanism (such as dark humour) in place.

If the Intern had been dropped into either an emergency services or military environment, she undoubtedly would have encountered similar attitudes from doctors, police, soldiers, paramedics, nurses and firefighters alike. That's because when people face a similar type of tragedy or stress together on a daily basis, a tribalistic culture starts to form both within their select group and their industry as a whole. When that happens, all sorts of crude, innovative and outright dirty jokes come flying out of the woodwork, as a way of people getting things off their chests. Without that level of release, bad things nearly always happen.

Journalists are no exception to that rule, as evidenced by an explosive piece that was penned by NewsWeek's Michael Ware only a couple of months ago.

(More after the Jump!!)