Keep them on side

中国日报网 2014-10-31 16:39



Keep them on side

Reader question:

Please explain “on side” in this: “Journalists who have access to highly placed government and corporate sources have to keep them on side by not reporting anything adverse about them or their organisations.”

My comments:

Keep them on side?

Keep them on your side, that is.

Keep them happy so that they’ll stay on your side, keep supporting you and not doing anything against you.

So that, in short, they’ll keep feeding you stories from time to time.

It’s an open secret that journalists cultivate relationships with government officials and corporate executives, people who are in the know, so to speak.

Journalists cultivating relations with public officials and business executives? There is something called conflict of interest, isn’t there?

You’re right. Very correct, in fact.

Still, it’s a fact of life that journalists covet those relationships, and for obvious reasons. Close, trusting relationships with those guys will get reporters inside stories. If people in the position of power trust you, they’ll feed you stories others don’t have, sometimes leading to a scoop (which is a story for you to report first), sometimes even leading to an exclusive scoop (which is a story you, only you, have).

You’ve got to be careful with those relationships, though. Sometimes they feed you stories to serve their own purposes rather than public good. They may feed you tales that are biased and untrue. For example, they may tell you a tale to put themselves or their political party or company in a better light. Or they may spread a rumor to ruin the reputation of a political opponent or a business rival.

See? You as a reporter have to be careful. Always double check. Don’t take anything as read, etc. etc.

If you are a reporter who is worth your salt, you’ll understand this perfectly.

Anyways, it’s a fine line to walk. You don’t want to say anything bad about the people who feed you stories, but at the same time, you have to remain impartial and independent – if that were at all possible.

How do you walk that fine line?

Well, I’ll let you figure that one out on your own.

Here are media examples of people who keep others on side – which means, again simply put, on their side:

1. Maeve Higgins has arrived at a pub on Dublin’s Exchequer Street carrying her latest discovery: the gym bag. We are a few doors down from Cornucopia, a vegetarian restaurant and unofficial dining spot for Higgins’s fans. Whenever the Cork comedian goes in for a bite to eat, she is approached by women of her own age — usually in flowery dresses, most likely owners of basketed bicycles — and asked about a possible second series of Fancy Vittles, the comedy cookery show she and her sister Lilly made for RTE in 2009.

Vegetarians love her stuff. Sometimes Higgins pretends she still is one, just to keep them on side. Yet the truth is that the comedian — who used to hide during PE class and once had ethical objections to consuming our four-legged friends — is now a protein-scoffing exercise junkie.

- A look on the bright side, The Sunday Times, January 21, 2012.

2. Rotherham’s crime tsar quit the Labour Party last night following a day of calls for him to resign from his £85,000-a-year post in the wake of the child exploitation scandal.

Shaun Wright pre-empted attempts to sack him by resigning from the party – but vowed to remain in his role as an independent Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire.

He shrugged off any blame for the scandal, despite having been the Labour councillor responsible for children’s services in Rotherham from 2005 to 2010 when the abuse of vulnerable girls by Asian men was at its worst.


Mr MacShane, who was jailed for six months after he admitted submitting fake invoices in his expenses, told World At One the abuse was never raised with him personally in his 18 years as Rotherham MP from 1994 to 2012. He admitted he was aware of the allegations from Press reports.

In his book Prison Diaries, published earlier this year after his release from Brixton, Mr MacShane said he was one of many politicians who chose not to speak out about ‘dirty secrets’ because of the fear of losing Muslim votes.

He wrote: ‘I feel ashamed that I too, like so many MPs, preferred to keep silent on some of the dirty secrets about bad practices in the Kashmiri Muslim community.’

Claims were made last night that some Labour councillors may have turned a blind eye to child sex abuse because they needed the Asian vote.

Former Labour sources described a culture where councillors acted as ‘Mafia bosses’ and told their constituents that they could ‘do anything for them’ to keep them on side.

They told the Mail: ‘Rotherham Council is horrendously corrupt. There is a large Asian contingency and a strong Labour vote among the ethnic community so they may have turned a blind eye to things to keep their votes.’

- Crime tsar quits the Labour Party,, August 27, 2014.

3. Employees can help manage a bad boss and avoid messy personality clashes, according to behavioural experts.

There are many reasons why bosses have difficult relationships with their staff, says psychologist Dr Steven Saunders.

In some cases, he says, managers have been promoted for the wrong reasons (e.g. because they have served the business well, not because of their people management skills); or they might be “a little soft” and not possess the “toughness” required for their role; some are just not on the same page as their employees (e.g. because of a poorly thought-out incentive scheme); others might be affected by issues outside of work, or simply under too much pressure.

Bosses with poor management skills can be imprecise about their expectations of employees, inconsistent in their actions, critical and slow to praise, or driven by ego.

But both bosses and employees need to remember that their relationship is mutually interdependent, and employees shouldn't just take a passive role, Saunders says in a Robert Half podcast.


Clashes and difficulties communicating with a manager can be avoided if employees understand their personality style and how to deal with them, says behavioural specialist Nathan Chanesman.

Chanesman, the founder and CEO of assessment firm MyProfile, says the key to a good working environment is to identify and mirror the boss’s personality style.

‘Driver’ bosses are those that “tell you what to do, how they want it done, and that they want it done ‘now’”, he says. These bosses tend to underestimate the time it takes to do something and the work required, and can come across as control freaks who make decisions quickly, micro-manage, and ask for reports they don’t read. They raise their voice, have a quick temper and often lack people skills.

To keep them on side, he says, employees should:

Be direct. “If you don't think you can do it on time, say so. Let them know when it will be done. Be positive.”

- Empower employees to manage bad bosses, HR Daily, April 29, 2009.




About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.



Sheep's skin

Hold your horses

A shot across the bows?

Count your blessings

Pie in the sky

Pulling out all the stops?


(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑:祝兴媛)



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