(Due to strict policies, we cannot publish the word ‘man’ in the title because it may have connotations not suitable for a family audience…sorry. The stars look pretty though.)
A notorious freelance journalist who has travelled afar to report on war zones, natural and man made disasters and has seen her fair share of grief. Originally from New Zealand, she is now living in England, currently working for the Daily Mail and with that, I introduce a lady who sat listening me stutter questions at her for the best part of an hour:
Many presumptions and opinions come to mind whenever her name is mentioned; they certainly did for me: controversial, obstinate and someone who’s ‘determined not to be invisible.’
When she walked into the room, the aura that she carried was of a strong, fulfilled woman who’d found her place in the world.
With her leopard print dress and kitten heels she put across a persona that often carries more negative connotations of (heaven forbid!) a woman, who can actually fend for herself and own her own voice.
What would the grandparents think?
Yet, as we waited for our Starbucks to be served (thank you Steve) we got talking and actually found that all the preconceptions we had made were complete and utter rubbish. Yes, she is strong willed, yes she is independent but her edge is softened like smudged chalk and Jo is more than what the headlines in recent months have portrayed her to be.
I found her to be approachable, kind and benevolent in her manner (characteristics I never thought I would label a journalist to be) but maybe that shows my own ignorance, not hers.
So, coffee, hot chocolate, muffin, sandwich, frappuccino, books, notepad, pens and bags in hand, we proceeded to sit down and start the interview.
Not one for being blunt and straight to the point, I began by asking her about the war zones she had visited and how it felt to be working with people who’d lost loved ones.
Didn’t she feel like she was imposing on their grief or was the message of war that comes with their stories too important to ignore?
Did she find that she could keep a distance between herself and the one whom she is interviewing?
“I don’t think that in those situations you can keep it entirely separate and that you can empathise with what they’re going through; in terms of trust and the things they tell you, no you cannot cut yourself off from that.”
She also made the point that she would never say to someone “I know how you feel” because you don’t and you would never want to know how they feel.
“You just have to do the job and focus on the story you’re doing.”
An emotional tale of the things Jo has reported on and how after interviewing a witness to a tsunami, she went home, wrote the interview and burst into tears; a juxtaposing image of a more sensitive soul compared with the description by a certain Independent newspaper, which labelled her as an unrepentant harasser of a certain “innocent party” who just so happens to be a very prominent figure in the current government.
Not much was said regarding this particular situation and Jo had been asked not to talk about it, saying: “the situation has now been resolved.”
Before moving to Australia to freelance, Jo told us that everything she had seen “had all accumulated and I ended up in a few counselling sessions to help me deal” with the knowledge visiting the disaster zones had given her.
Personally, it was inspiring to hear all that she had done and the fearlessness in which she informed us of her counselling. It tends to be a taboo subject that people are ashamed of admitting, when in fact, it should be the complete opposite.
When asked about the regulations imposed on newspapers to avoid such topics, Jo’s answer was actually surprisingly definite and in support of these regimentations.
“No, the rules are very good as the concern of copycats is so extreme that if a story were to be published in detail, then it could be portrayed as almost a do it yourself guide.”
Sticking to taboo subjects, Jo began commenting on the media and the portrayal of young women in so-called contemporary magazines, thus she moved the conversation onto Lily Allen’s new music video.
Jo rightly commented that critics are “quite hypocritical”.
On the one hand, they would insist to be supporters of an equal society, yet when someone like Lily stands up and fights back against everything that unbalances the equilibrium, she is branded nothing less than a disgrace.
Yes, the song may feature an incredible amount of profanities and the content may not have been that suitable for a young audience but surely the topics she covers cannot be addressed in any other way. If they were described and fought against in a mitigating style, then she’d be labelled a sell out; someone who is censoring their opinions because those higher up would not approve.
Equally, unlike many other artists in the charts (considering the charts today, I do use the word artist loosely) Lily was quite considerable in the fact she graced her video with a warning at the beginning for parents to use discretion in letting their children watch the video, even though it’s a given fact that most children will watch it anyway.
Lily Allen’s new song ‘Hard out here’ is a parody of how women in the media are manufactured products of a materialistic industry and are objectified so much, we’d expect every woman to be labelled with a price tag.
She addresses ‘twerking’ in the video, sexualisation, the ridiculous pressure to be a sack of bones and all the nonsensical ideologies that young women of today find themselves to be conforming to.
Jo makes the point that Lily is being criticised by the papers for “being white and most of her dancers are black.”
Now Lily is a racist feminist?
Erm, people, it’s a parody!
She’s making the point that people have the misguided opinion that black women are curvier and that they are used in videos because of their image.
Lily is addressing racism in music videos, not promoting it!
One post on YouTube commented that she’s addressing sexism by appropriating black culture. Well, as Lily says, “If you can’t detect the sarcasm, you’ve misunderstood” (read in a sing song tune please).
Jo added, “Every time you try and address one thing you open up another can of worms. But I don’t think that’s bad. The more you open stuff up and the more you talk about it, the better things get.”
Well, there you have it.
Honest opinions from an honest woman.
It was truly an honour to sit next to Jo Knowsley and provide for her the uncomfortable experience of becoming the story herself (actually we quite enjoyed making her squirm a bit, especially after she informed us that she favoured ‘being the one asking the questions to being the one to answer them’)…
No matter what presumptions other people come up with, I no longer share them.
She is a wonderful woman with fabulous and heart-breaking and funny stories to tell and it was a pleasure to finally get the full story on a legendary journalist.
Jo, we thank you.
(Some artistic license may have been used. All information provided might be opinion rather than facts and may be no ones opinions at all. When reading this article you are signing numerous contracts, none of which can be disclosed to you. Terms and Conditions apply.)