Why the long face?

Because everyone hates a hack that's why, says Glenda Cooper

In the 18th century the essayist and part-time hack Samuel Johnson knew exactly what he thought of journalists - "a man without virtue who writes lies at home for his own profit".

Two centuries on, nothing has changed. Everyone still dislikes us. Every year journalists fight it out with MPs and estate agents to see who comes top of the opinion polls measuring the least popular and trustworthy professions.

In fact, common adjectives used to describe us include aggressive, abusive, insensitive, chain-smoking, drunken and untruthful. And that's just by our mothers.

But new evidence presented at an international conference last week reveals that we have been reading journalists all wrong. Far from being super- confident Lotharios, hacks are - well there's no other word for it - shy.

At the world's first conference on shyness held in Cardiff by the British Psychological Society, Professor Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University and founder of the Shyness Institute, California singled out both television and newspaper journalists as shrinking violets and suggested that was why they picked the profession in the first place.

In the keynote speech to the conference Prof Zimbardo said as many as 60 per cent of the population admit to being shy now - a growth of a fifth in the past 20 years. Approximately a quarter of those could be termed "shy extroverts" who may be "publicly extrovert, and possess social skills but who sees the public persona as an act distinct from the private self... They feel if anyone gets to know them intimately then they will discover the damaged self."

This, Prof Zimbardo believes, is particularly true of journos who he thinks choose their career because of their bashfulness. Which may sound like a paradox but the professor explains that their work deflects attention from themselves and keeps people at a distance: "Look at the way newspaper reporters communicate," he said. "They ask all the questions and demand answers. Questions are never asked of them. They are in the powerful position. They dominate the highly structured conversation, they have the control."

He said that he had been interviewed on many occasions by broadcast journalists who said nothing until the red light (indicating recording) went on and they came to life. The second the red light went off, however, they would stalk off the set, usually neglecting even to say goodbye. "This is typical behaviour... Their external persona mean we have misjudged them."

At last! Someone realises the inner torment that journalists go through. At school, a future hack is the most unpopular kid in the class (because of your timidity, you make no friends and everyone thinks you tell lies). Then you grow up, become a reporter to deal with your inner turmoil (and settle a few scores) only to find that still everyone hates you because they still think you tell lies.

So next time that reporter sticks their notebook in your face, realise it's only because they are too sad to communicate in any other way. When they're still standing outside your door at midnight to catch with you with that bimbette, it's only because they're too coy to form a relationship themselves. And when they misquote you horrendously, twist your words and embarrass you hugely, remember 30 years after playground scuffles we are still knocking on your doors and you still won't come out to playn

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning:The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Sport
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier league

The Independent's live blog of today's Premier League action

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people'Bring It On' actress says her legal team will combat the 'vultures'
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
News
Dennis Rodman has confirmed he is not going to the Middle East to 'talk to with the leaders of Isis' as claimed in a recent satirical report
people
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Marketing - London

£60000 - £85000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketin...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Digital Project Manager

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: A Digital Project Manager is needed to join an exciti...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam