So there was this one time that I was asked to do a bit of work for the Daily Mail. It’s not my favourite newspaper and I wasn’t sure if it was the best move, but I always thought it would be nice to get paid to write and it would improve my journalism skills. I thought that this might be a brilliant way of getting my foot on the ladder and keeping my finger on the pulse.
Here is how it went...
First of all I had to create a piece on health and fitness. I know I am no expert, but I have lost almost two stone lately so I was looking forward to writing about this. In the absence of plugging any particular weight loss brand I took the obvious sensible route and wrote an article about how a healthy balanced diet and incorporating some walking into your exercise regime could work wonders – everything in moderation does you good. I mean, it’s worked for me – I’d even included sample menu ideas for the day – fresh and clean eating.
Their Verdict: My article was too bland. They wanted PUNCHY, SHOCKING, ATTENTION GRABBING. They made me change it to include a regimen of eating the wax of four lemons every morning at 8am, followed by three tea spoons of vinegar. Apparently this would help “burn off” any fat throughout the day. My article had to say that as long as you did this every day then you could just eat whatever you want. Also, this helps prevent cancer.
A week later the same regime was said to cause cancer.
Now this isn’t really my thing, but I was quite keen to up my involvement in this area. They made me stand outside this really posh gym in London for hours with a camera. I was waiting for what seemed like forever when out came Kim Kardashian. She didn’t do anything, she just had a big bag in her hand and was walking to her car, presumably to go back to her hotel or whatever. So I just came up with this - just a quick snappy thing really.
"Kim Spotted Outside London Gym"
Their Verdict: It was too boring. They needed an angle, they needed sensational headlines. It was changed to this:
As I was waiting in from of the gym I also actually caught a few snaps of Kate Middleton. (I never did care for fancy titles and I am sure that the editors would add all that stuff in.) She was just doing literally nothing, just walking, I told my editor they weren’t much and that he probably couldn’t run any sort of story with them. As soon as the photos were seen my editor had a right go at me, ranting and raving about what an amazing photo I had. (She was just walking, not dressed up, nothing special) Apparently I had underestimated the power of Kate’s hair to sell a newspaper.
They ran with a headline about how shiny her hair was on that particular day. Silly me.
I was asked to look into a few current affairs news items. I wanted hard-hitting, thoughtful and honest journalism. But I just ended up following everyone else reporting about what was seemingly current but had in fact been happening for a long time. In the end I was told to photograph a family of 8 who had a big TV with Sky and lived off benefits. The headline was quite shocking “FAMILY OF 8 SWINDLE £80,000 A YEAR TAX BENEFITS” as I spoke to the mother I quickly realised that figure was wrong and they had included her rent and council tax discounts in that figure anyway. Childcare was too expensive for her six kids who were all school-age and her husband had been laid off the year before. They were struggling to make ends meet and the paper had offered them some cash to run with the article and who was she to complain anyway?
I took some photos and left quite despondent.
Next up came a three page special on the “immigration problem.” I was introduced to a man from Romania who had moved to Britain with his young family. He was working as a picker in a warehouse and they wanted to run a story about how successful he was with the angle of “another British job taken by a migrant.” After talking to the man I realised that he was not being paid the living wage and he visited the food bank with his family once a week. I spoke to my editor about this and he was quite adamant that we run two separate stories, one about benefits being taken by “foreigners” and one about jobs being taken by “foreigners.”
I was wondering how I was going to make this into two stories, I mean, it was the same family but I was told not to worry. Just as I was wondering whether the foreigners were coming over here taking all of our jobs or taking all of our benefits, the headlines were created and newspapers were sold. My head was in a whirl.
At the end of the working week, I was let go. They said that we had artistic differences and that I would never fit in. I think that it was also due to the fact that they asked me to write about Jeremy Corbyn as a newly elected Labour leader and I focused on his campaigns for equality and fairness. What they really wanted was something simpler. I saw the headline the next day as I sat drinking coffee, wondering why on earth people actually read and believe this utter utter crap.