every now and then i get a longing for my old job because at there, i knew what i was doing most of the time. if i didn’t, very few others would know what to do anyway. i miss being in control and having juniors listening to me as if i knew what i was talking about.
at this job, i know nuts most of the time. sometimes it’s frustrating because the learning curve is steep and the lesson is difficult at the time. and then there are other kind of lessons – the kind i could only learn because i was there in the office and someone was willing to tell me what to do or what i did wrong or tell me something i never even gave a proper thought about before.
last weekend i was chatting with a senior who’s about to be transferred. i was giving her my best wishes when the conversation somehow turned to the goodies that reporters get simply because we’re in the media.
everybody knows that when journalists go to press conferences or launches, goodies and meals are always expected. it didn’t take me long to have the same expectations. there was once when i felt quite indignant when i thought the press were not going to be served food because they sat us in an area without tables, while the other guests were sat around tables. turned out i jumped to conclusions because the organisers took the journalists for a buffet lunch after the event.
anyway, the senior was telling me that whenever she receives a goodie bag she would give away the freebies to other journalists who wants them and only keep the written materials for her article. my first reaction was of surprise. you get something free, and most of the time it’s a pretty good thing, and you don’t want it? why??
a superior who happened to overhear our conversation chipped in and explained that my senior is correct in doing so, because to accept the goodie bag is in a way a form of bribery. she quickly added that she wasn’t saying that people who accept goodie bags are bribed, but it’s just a matter of ethics.
when she put it that way, it seems so simple. i’ve studied professional ethics, of course i should realise this. but i never really gave this a second thought until this conversation.
to me, the goodie bags are like gifts you receive from a friend. if a friend gives you a present, it would be rude to say no. so i accept it. but of course, if you get a goodie bag from an organisation, the underlying meaning is that they hope you would put a good word for their product when you write the article. and of course they also hope it will be published in the papers.
(when i worked in the bookshop, there was one occasion i was told to prepare goodie bags because we were expecting the media. it wasn’t so that they would write about the bookshop immediately but to build a relationship for in the future when they would like a write-up. the management would occasionally give away pretty good books to people in the media that they know have written about the bookshop recently.)
but they don’t realise that what goes into tomorrow’s papers are not decided by the people who accepts your goodie bag. they can write the best article for you but if something more exciting or sensational or catastrophic happen on the day, chances are your product is not considered news anymore. (i’m talking from the newsdesk perspective, not from features.)
the seniors raised a good point. i don’t know if accepting goodie bags are akin to bribery, but it’s definitely something for me to consider. thankfully my reporting days are coming to an end so that will not be a moral dilemma for me.
if i were to go back to reporting some day, would i be accepting goodie bags? to be honest, i think i probably will, but the difference is that i do it based on an informed decision. i learnt that my actions can say a lot about me whether i realise it or not. that’s something good for me to be reminded of every now and then.