Controversy rages among writers this week in the wake of a series of horrific journalistic outrages.
As readers will know, the past seven days have witnessed not one but a series of incidents, in which large numbers of innocent people have been hurt.
Officers from the National Union of Journalists’ Tactical Support Unit, who have attended each of the crime scenes, confirm that it has still not been possible to count the numbers wounded, although one entire community is said to have been peppered by high velocity rounds.
An officer, speaking off the record, said that the lethal wordsmiths were believed in each case to have been women … stressing that this can only be fully confirmed once detailed genital and chromosomal examination of detainees has been completed.
We were assured, however, that both main suspects are in custody, in the NUJ’s maximum security bar in Soho.
The ease with which these atrocities were carried out by lone writers, and the regularity of such events, has raised questions again about the almost sacrosanct ‘Second Amendment’ to the journalists’ unwritten Constitution.
Those who haven’t been raised as journalists will probably underestimate the power of the peoples’ Constitution, famously set down by the Founding Fathers in the tea houses of fleet street.
Those opening words, confirming the hierarchy of benign dictatorship from owner to editor and all the way down to tea boy, have been augmented by many hard-fought amendments over the years, all regarded with the same reverence accorded to religious sacrements.
The First Amendment – The Right to be Published – is probably one of the best known aspects of this creed. Whilst challenged on several occasions, it has stood the test of time, whereas lesser Amendments – such as the Right to a Byline – have been modified and have fallen by the wayside.
But it is the Second Amendment – The Right to Bear Grudges – which concerns us here.
Historian, Professor Roy Greenslime, explains the origins of this provision.
“Back in the olden times, journalists needed to be able to feed and protect themselves … especially cut off from civilisation, in the regions”
“The need for carrying a grudge was part of everyday living. A well aimed grudge could fell a local politician and provide food on the table for a week.”
“When threatened by wild public relations consultants, or renegade journalists (operating outside the PCC code), it was accepted that a lone journalist could take aim with a grudge to defend their scoop or family”.
“The didn’t call it the ‘Wild East End’ for nothing”, adds Greenslime.
Whilst this historical need for bearing grudges is well understood and accepted, it doesn’t translate well to the modern world, where journalists live in cities or high-walled citadels, with private security guards.
Some journalists insist that shooting off grudges is still a fine sport, which every red-blooded hack can enjoy in their down time.
Hand held grudges can be used in target practice and a variety of easily obtained weapons are available … from the sneaky ‘spit in their coffee’ to the powerful ‘claim they stole your story’. There are no restrictions on the right to bear such grudges.
The important aspect of these small grudges is that only a small number of shots can be fired without the journalist having to stop and reload. In that time HR and compliance teams have time to take the offender down.
In recent years, there has been a worrying increase in the fashion for holding more dangerous rapid action assault grudges, with large magazines. These have the capacity to harm many more people.
It is these rapid action assault grudges, of the kind normally employed by senior government officials, which have been responsible for each of the last week’s atrocities.
This has fuelled calls for action to limit the holding of such powerful grudges.
Legislating to curb journalists’ rights to bear any kind of grudge is likely to be hotly resisted.
The most important lobby, the National Radfem Association (NRA) has close links to the manufacturers of grudges and argues stolidly against reform.
NRA activists also have powerful allies.
This debate, which has run for years, is unlikely to resolved soon.
Meanwhile it is only a matter of time before copycat atrocities occur.