Back in June last year, Trafalgar Square was brought to a standstill by black cab drivers protesting about a taxi app called 'Uber'. For one day they made their feelings known about the emerging service, which they said unfairly undercut them on prices and, as Uber didn't properly screen its drivers, was potentially unsafe for passengers.
Despite aiming to drum up awareness in the press, the journalists of Twitter were unsympathetic to their cause - some inconvenienced by the traffic, some just put out at the audacity of the protests. To give you an idea of the tone, it went like this:
How dare these men and women, who are essentially there to serve more important people like my friends and I, wield their power around like a half-empty pint glass in a tatty suburban pub? Good on Uber for having the initiative to offer competitive prices, after all, this is a hyper-global-financial-branded-buzzword-filled world we live in, and if you can't keep up, get out.
One of my co-workers, whose Dad is a cabbie, was called scum by a fellow journo because of it. I sat there reading the uppity brattishness from a privileged media set, many of whom I gather had never had a pint or a cuppa with a black cabbie in their life, God forbid be related to one, championing the services of Uber despite concerns raised by the cabbies about privacy, safety, and the conduct of Uber drivers. Registration rate for the app increased by 850% as a direct result of the kind of media coverage given to the protest.
How the tables have turned.
This week Uber's CEO Travis Kalanick became embroiled in controversy after one of his employees tracked the journey of a BuzzFeed journalist without her permission. This comes in the wake of the entrepreneur being heard to say he'd be willing to smear journalists in revenge for bad press. The backlash from the media has been swift and vicious:
The Guardian - Is Uber The Worst Company In Silicon Valley?
Time Magazine: '7 Dead-Serious Uber Controversies That Somehow Didn't Sink The Company'
Vice: 'Why Uber is the Worst Thing Ever'
Some of these tweets are from those outside of Britain who may not have been aware of the original London protest, but the message is clear: your problems aren't real problems until they affect those in the media. If ever an example was needed of a self-obsessed industry's disconnect with the working people, it's this. Hypocrisy clearer than a yellow 'TAXI' light through the murky fog of journalism. Where were these people when the cabbies in Trafalgar Square were raising the same privacy concerns now experienced by 'important' people?
Is it any wonder Nigel Farage's anti-media stance resonates in places like Debden, Hornchurch or Waltham Cross? Where the driveways are dotted with black cabs and people who've felt that, no matter how loudly they've shouted, nobody's been listening? The kind of places some would only recognise from the front of a bus going past their London gastropub. Towns as abandoned by the mainstream press as the car parks in the post-war shopping centres after dark.
My mate once laughed as he told me he'd lost count of the number of conversations he's had with black cabbies who've moved from East London to Clacton, where he's from. Where was it that UKIP gained their first elected MP again? That's right, in that strange forgotten coastal town which soon became crawling with camera crews and eager young reporters looking for someone with an accent to give a good sound byte.
This should be a lesson to all in the media. Engaging with the Working Class doesn't mean dressing a rakish model in Stone Island and doing a photo shoot on an estate for a £10 fashion mag. It doesn't mean singing Roll Out the Barrel in a Hackney pub where storybook cockneys haven't lived for generations. It means taking an interest in peoples lives and treating their concerns as valid, even if they don't have as many Twitter followers as you or live in a town that lacks an artisan deli.
Even if you continue to ignore them, eventually they will be heard, and you might not like what they've got to say.