I’m going to have to be careful here. Because I can’t say that, in recent days, I’ve not written stories that could best be described as “fillers”. And every journalist knows that there comes a point – usually at about this time of year – when proper news material takes a holiday.
I’ve even joked in the past about gathering a “standard” vox pops for recurring stories and simply running it at the appropriate moment. After all, every murder generates “he was a quiet man, kept himself to himself,” or “you hear about this sort of thing but you never think it,s going to happen round here.”
So you might well be able to forgive The Gloucester Citizen for this gem of a filler about a woman who wonders whether she has found the biggest chip in Gloucestershire.
“Laura was so stunned that she took a photo and sent it in!” enthuses the Citizen. What enterprising readers the paper has. If only my listeners would helpfully record similar conversations on their smart phones and email them to me. I’d have a full bulletin tray every day.
And it’s certainly got people talking on the Citizen’s website. Although sadly for the wrong reasons.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that there is someone else who just happens to be called Laura Enfield and had the initiative to contact the paper over “Chipgate”. You can make up your own mind on this one.
There’s nothing wrong with a journalist being the story. Interesting or quirky things happen to everyone. Countless story ideas have been generated by personal experiences of colleagues – I’ll freely admit that a good proportion of talking points on many radio shows come from that source.
But at least name the source – and attribute it to your own staff. The audience may still mock the story – as they have done in this case. That way, you still end up with your dignity intact. And your ethics.