I found out last night that a colleague has left her husband after finding out he had cheated on her.
That makes her the fifth reporter I know who was cheated on last year. That is a lousy number for people in a profession that pokes holes in official statements and is supposed to never accept things at face value.
A blog post that spread in (social and mainstream) media circles a few year ago said it best:
We don’t take shit from anyone, so don’t lie to us or give a load of bullshit. We spend all day separating fact from fiction, listening to PR cronies and dealing with slimy politicians. If you make us do the same with you, you’re just gonna piss us off. And don’t think we’ll be quiet about it. We’ll respond with the vengeance of an Op-Ed page railing against society’s injustices — and we’ll enjoy doing it.
Just tell us the truth. We can handle it.
And we can. Or at least we can handle it better than knowing we’d been lied to. There are few things we have trouble letting go: Being accused of corruption, being scooped, and being lied to by a source. Accusations of corruption evolve into points of pride when unfounded, and being scooped turns into an almost healthy if incestuous competition* once you get over it.**
Being lied to, though, is the worst because it’s an insult not just to our intelligence, but also to the outfits we work for, and to the abstract pie-in-the-sky public trust that we serve.
But that’s work, and we can leave work at the office (or whatever serves as an office) and occasionally try to lead regular lives. Sure, we’ll always have a notebook and pen within reach, but we do try to not be on the job when the job is done.
If you’ve ever seen a reporter at work, you will notice that a lot us have either an eyebrow raised or have our lips curled in a sneer while writing. That isn’t swagger or anything, it’s just part of our internal monologue of “What does this mean? Is this true? What a silly thing to say.”
Not having to do that is a luxury, one that we crave with something that borders on desperation. We see the red flags just like everybody else–probably before everybody else and with more clarity–but I guess we tend to ignore them.
They say if your mother says she loves you, check it out, but it gets tiring having to trust, but verify all the time. You need to be able to trust another person at some point, and who better than the person you’ve given an exclusive to your heart, right? And so, we trust, often against instinct and in the face of evidence.
For people in the business of presenting the truth, we are piss poor at handling our own personal truths.
*See the banking and finance beats
** We all have arch-rivals. Their identities are closely-guarded secrets