"If you say you’re a journalist it’s almost like a dirty word"

TV journalist turned actor and playwright Osman Baig offers a defence of his first profession when he brings Fake News to Chichester’s Minerva Theatre from November 25-27.

Fake News
Fake News

“Journalism is what I did for 15 years and within that period the perception of journalism has changed so dramatically. When I began my career there was no talk of fake news but now if you say you’re a journalist it’s almost like a dirty word and I think people just have no understanding of the pressures that we are up against.”

Osman’s one-man show tells the tale of a budding young journalist who lands a dream internship at the country’s biggest online news organisation. There, he stumbles on an earth-shattering exclusive and decides to click publish. There’s just one problem: the story is completely untrue…

“The story turns out to be completely inaccurate in a completely embarrassing way and the piece is about how he claws his way back and what it says about our industry.

“Fake News began in 2018 when we were in the grip of the Trump era. I worked in news for about 15 years. I began in TV when I finished my degree and I got an internship at Sky News and I worked for other places as well including CNN. I was then able to save up enough money to go to drama school. I started training when I was 30.

“I think I have always been at heart a storyteller and I’ve just always wanted to tell those stories. Journalism felt like an obvious medium because I come from quite a strict Asian background and journalism seemed to be a stable choice and a reputable career rather than becoming a novelist or whatever. It felt like the right choice. And I loved working in journalism but in the end I think I’ve always found that you could never get under the skin of people because you are having to be impartial and neutral. I wanted to be a bit more personal in what I was saying.

“I guess it was a bit of a shock when I started training to be an actor. I started doing an evening class and one of my teachers said ‘You should consider doing a postgraduate degree.’ I hadn’t really thought about it but having this teacher who saw that there was potential and who explained to me how I could do the training made a big difference. I just thought ’Why not?’ You only get one life. I just thought I should try it. And I felt that drama would be a really great way to further my storytelling interests. It was a 12-month very intensive training. It was designed for people that had not done a three-year degree. You pack everything into those 12 months and I graduated in 2015.

“I got small parts at the Almeida and at the RSC and I did a few fringe shows. Around that time we were just getting into the Trump administration and I thought I know the world of journalism and I could use that as a platform to tell stories and also to talk about journalism.

“You had the leader of the free world essentially rubbishing our career and my friends and maligning all journalists. It felt necessary to stand up for what journalism is. Everyone seems to have an opinion now without knowing what the media is like and I wanted people to have a peek behind the wizard’s curtain and show them what it actually is like so that they can properly make up their minds. The title Fake News is ironic.”