Don Your Way column: Why TV newspaper drama Press is fake news

Darren Burke says Press doesn't portray journalists in a true light.
Darren Burke says Press doesn't portray journalists in a true light.

Tonight, the second episode of a new BBC drama focusing on the newspaper industry will hit our screens. 

Entitled Press, it tells the story of two rival publications, one an all-guns blazing red-top tabloid with loose ethics and morals and the other, a left-leaning broadsheet with a more thoughtful and measured approach in getting the story.

When the first epsiode aired last week, I decided to give it a wide berth.

You see, I hate the way journalists have been portrayed on television over the years. 

From Coronation Street to EastEnders and everything in between, reporters are always depicted as sleazy, good for nothing low-lifes who’d sell their own mothers to get a decent story.

I’m not going to deny that there are some out there who are like that, but that’s to tar an entire industry with the same brush. 

It’s like lazily suggesting all coppers are bent and open to bribes, all milkmen are randy, bed-hopping lotharios and all farmers are in-bred cider drinking yokels.

As tweets poured in from outraged fellow journos about how the industry was being shown, I felt vindicated in my decision not to watch.

But then curiosity got the better of me and I decided to seek it out on the iPlayer.

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And yes, while some scenes had my toes curling, I had to admit that it was actually a rather entertaining piece of television drama.

But the reality of news gathering is far different to that depicted on Press. 

Well, at least it is at local level. No exposing gay footballers or blackmailing Cabinet ministers over saucy photos here – where were the golden wedding celebrations and cheque presentations, the bread and butter of any journalist’s early days in the industry?

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When I first began my career at the Free Press many, many moons again (1992 if anyone’s counting) my rather wise old news editor at the time ensured it was a long time before I was allowed anywhere near the front page with an exclusive.

Instead, he made sure I slowly learned my trade, shadowing other senior reporters, concentrating on what might be seen as the more mundane aspects of local news reporting – church fetes and vegetable shows, that kind of thing.

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Things have certainly changed in the last twenty years or so with the dawn of the digital age making news gathering and reporting a truly different kettle of fish to what most current reporters refer to as ‘the good old days.’

I know the whole phone hacking scandal left a sour taste for many about how us journalists operate – but that’s a very small minority and I can't emphasise enough how Press is a far cry from what newsroom life is really like.

That said, I’ll still be tuning in again, even if I’m cringing  and sticking my fingers in my ears at the dialogue.