10 Feb 2015

I’m a journalist because I’m angry – you should be too

I got interested in this blog. Then I got angry. Then I got bored.

Bored because this is not about journalism at all – it’s about money.

If anyone ever approached me about wanting to become a journalist for the money of course I would show them the door. Try getting all those A* grades then going for your interview at medical school and patiently explaining you want to become a doctor because consultants get more than £150 grand a year  – and see how far you get.

The door, again. Different door I grant you, but for the same good reason.

People should become doctors because they want to cure sick other people. People should want to be journalists because of anger. And when I see anger I give real encouragement.

And guess what – they actually do pay you a  bit, enough, to go out and expose wrongdoing, and that feeling is a hell of a lot better than money or drugs or anything else for that matter.

So that’s why you should do journalism and that ain’t going away no matter how the different platforms of media delivery are being invented and squirted out into a an ever-more-divided world between those who have power and abuse it and those who are abused and used.

Nothing else can get to that like well-directed and properly-researched journalism, Nothing, not politics, not the police (if relevant). No, nothing. And that alone should motivate journalists of any age – the anger to damn well try and do something about it.

And you can.

Yes I have been lucky and yes I have had many understanding editors – but they are in the much-maligned mainstream media.


Alex Thomson covering the Gibraltar shootings in 1988

Long, investigative stories over weeks, months and often years can and do make a difference and I have had my share – Bloody Sunday, the Mull of Kintyre and Rangers to pick three at random. All of them in their own way made a difference. The first two absolutely changed judicial history and righted grave miscarriages of justice.

That is what journalism can do and that is what it will always be called upon to do. And there’s nothing special about me in any way.

Look at Panorama and the care homes issue. Look at the Sir Jimmy Savile investigations and all that has come from that. These are events , these are journalistic triumphs. The bad old MSM forcing change in the way we run our lives in these islands.

Whatever the motives for all those working to make those changes I will bet the farm I don’t have that not one of the individuals was doing it for the money or the middle-class lifestyle or the whatever material benefits that could arise.

They were doing it because they were angry at the way things are and they had the power to make it better.

Make. It. Better.

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6 reader comments

  1. H.B.Snel says:

    I am not a young journalist but as an individual try to study what is wrong about society and what is the historic error that is made time and again by the elite that is corrupted so much these days, I follow economists in their thinking like Piketty, shaking my head in disgust as I see the big salaries for unproductive bankers and other topfigures. A historian that really inspired me because he is also a kind of economic prophet is Webster Tarpley, everybody should listen to him even as it is maybe to late there is always a lot to learn especially for the young this society is making a lot of mistakes at home with a improductive banking system and abroad by looking for world-domination.

  2. James Barr says:

    If only the Sports Journalists in Scotland were as motivated as you , Alex.
    As an English teacher, I used to use sporting articles by the likes of Hugh McIlvanney as illustrations of the excellence of language. I would now use the Scottish hacks to illustrate the opposite.

  3. Philip Edwards says:


    I knew I was in good company.

    In one of his rare responses Jon Snow called me “an angry man.” (Which I thought said more about an increasingly compliant Jon than it did me. After all, he DID tell Cameron and Heseltine in interviews that, “I’m One of Us and we’re alright.”)

    The only interesting bit in the subject blog was when the guy mentioned labour V capital (before quickly dropping THAT issue). The rest of it was a self pitying whinge.

    Interestingly, almost ninety years ago H.L.Mencken castigated journalists who “…now earn almost as much as a police sergeant.”

    Keep up the good work. You’re one of the rarities.

  4. Ben says:

    Journalism or influencing? Given news organisations like channel 4 are ultimately dependent upon the state, which term is applicable? Reporting, sides heavily with the latter.

  5. Philip says:

    “well-directed and properly-researched” journalism is the point. Too much of what passes for journalism is lazy, poorly-researched & directed by employers at particular sections of society they wish to scapegoat. Too many journalists are essentially PR assistants (whether they know it or not) to “celebs” whose doings are overpublicized & immaterial. Too many journalists don’t go and aren’t directed into those places where the murky secrets of the establishment, the rich, the powerful & the famous are hidden. What politicians say is too often parroted out by the media without proper criticism. Too often what they actually do isn’t followed up. For instance, recall what was said at the time of the riots a couple of years ago. How many of those promises have actually been carried through? Why are journalists not holding government (& other politicians) to account against their promises? Factcheck is a rare beacon of research into what politicians say, and the misleading use of information (if not downright lies) that they use. But too much is constrained by the media ownership (e.g. has the Mail or any Murdoch media channel ever mentioned anything positive the EU is doing? Or differentiated between the ECHR and ECJ? How often do even the more balanced, mainstream channels – like the BBC & C4 – operate on the basis of metropolitan, “rational” “liberal” assumptions? Who picks the “lead stories” for the day and why? Is it necessary to exaggerate, oversimplify and shorten news items on the assumption WE’RE ALL DEAF, STUPID & WITH THE ATTENTION SPAN OF A GNAT? If we aren’t informed better by the media, we tend to believe our own prejudices (which significant chunks of the newspaper industry want to reinforce or even create).
    I’m angry…because we’re about to have an election in which one party will have vastly more money to spend, more media support – by people who want to ensure their wealth is untouched/increased & that no-one should lay a finger on the £bns they’ve stashed away abroad or in property in the UK, while poor people are stigmatised and their meagre incomes cut and their legal employment protection eroded….and dozens of journalists are happily complicit in all this.

  6. Noah says:

    Go Tomo! expose more of the absolute collusion and mire of the Establishment and those laughable poiliticans… Jon Snow for President of the UK :-)

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