Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me, Kenneth Williams famously shrieked in the role of Julius Caesar, as he got the point – literally and figuratively – in the 1964 romp, Carry On Cleo.
Yet I can imagine how the real Roman emperor must have felt, because it’s that time of year when an opinion poll rears its ugly head, naming and shaming the professionals people most love to hate. And, for reasons I’ve never fully comprehended, we journalists always make the top 10.
This year’s annual bashing fest was even worse than normal. It saw us come joint-first (or worst, if you prefer) alongside politicians, who, I fully agree, warrant universal damnation for all the promises they break, U-turns they make and weaselly words they utter.
But just look at the list of ogres in the public conscious, some quite understandably cited:
Joint 1st: Politicos and newsmen – disapproval rating 93%.
Joint 3rd: Bankers and estate agents – disapproval rating 89% (who’d have guess they were even that popular!).
5th: Builders – disapproval rating 81% (obviously too many cowboys, including the Indians).
6th: Civil servants – disapproval rating 75% (wouldn’t you like to see them choke on their own red tape).
7th: Accountants – disapproval rating 71% (that doesn’t add up to me…except, let’s face it, bean-counters are usually boring).
8th: Lawyers – disapproval rating 65% (surely a gross under-estimation; not for nothing is the collective term for my learned friends a ‘leech of lawyers’).
9th: Engineers – disapproval rating 44% (you can’t be serious…these people are actually useful!).
10th: Teachers – disapproval rating 31% (treble that if you went to my school).
So who could compile so errant a poll? Were the pollsters standing outside bars late on a Saturday night, canvassing opinions – or prompting responses – from those staggering by?
And why no mention of scalpers who really take Joe and Joanna Public to the cleaners (along with lawyers, of course)? So here are a few that would make my hit list: glib used-car salesmen, double-glazing touts, taxi drivers with a penchant for long detours, parking-metre jobsworths, snotty shop assistants who ignore you, charity ‘chuggers’ who badger you into submission in the street…
Only the limitations of space prohibit me from adding to those more worthy of approbation than we humble scribes of the Fourth Estate, whose job it is inform the masses and expose injustice and corruption wherever it lurks.
All right, okay. We rightly deserved a bad Press over the phone-hacking scandal, culpability for which, incidentally, the plods still have to prove. And, more recently, there’s been the farrago over the unveiling of Duchess Kate’s boobs – but that was the handiwork of a French snapper (what can you expect from a bunch who’d probably eat their grannies if the old dears were covered in sauce béarnaise?)
In general, however, I contend we make a pretty fair fist of informing, amusing and educating our readerships, if only in the Free World, where some fanatic wielding a blue pencil and an AK47 isn’t glaring over our shoulder, dictating what we write.
For instance, would you have known about tricky Dicky Nixon’s Watergate cover-up, arms being smuggled to Iran, rampant corruption in the corridors of power – not forgetting Silvio Berlasconi’s ‘bunga-bunga’ orgies – the British MPs expenses fiddle or FIFA soccer chiefs on the take if it hadn’t been for inquiring journos on the cases?
Not a week goes by without some injustice, scandal or nefarious activity being outed by the media. And, if it wasn’t for the papers or TV, where would courageous whistleblowers turn if they knew the authorities would probably bang them up in jail and censor or suppress the embarrassing information they possess?
Sure, we don’t getting everything right – who does! – and we can pay for our mistakes with punitive libel damages when we’re wrong.
But, unlike much of the bilge swilling around the internet and penned by untrained hands, when you buy a legitimate newspaper – or log onto its online edition – you’re guaranteed some high degree of accurate reporting.
So remember, you can trust me…I’m a journalist (and rest assured your secrets will only be shared with my several million readers).