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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Database Executive - Leading Events Marketing Company - London

£23000 - £25000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Databas...

Recruitment Genius: Publishing Assistant

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Digital Account Exec ...

Guru Careers: Print Project Manager

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: A Print Project Manager is needed to join one...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living