Earlier this week, I spent half a day sitting in a district court.
The district courts can be worthwhile if you’re a freelance journalist, but they’re a bit of a lottery too. Get in well with some of the staff, and you’ll get a tip off if there’s something interesting coming up.
On Monday, I got lucky. The accused hit another car in a car park, left the scene, and was tracked down thanks to CCTV footage. But his surname was Happy, and he worked for a company called Tender Loving Care, so judge Desmond Zaidan cracked a joke.
“How can I sentence someone to prison who works for a company called Tender Loving Care?”. And whose name is Mr Happy?” he asked, as he considered sentence.
Three newspapers printed the story. In due time, they will pay me.
But since Tuesday, I’ve found the same story on three websites, in Ireland, the UK and the USA.
I’m a freelance. I retain copyright on the stories I’ve written. But there’s not much I can do if someone outside the jurisdiction does a cut and paste. And if I can’t get paid, why work?
Newspapers aren’t just dying because people read online.