THE fact that he wore a gilet put me off him before he even opened his mouth. But worse was to come.

There had been a dreadful road accident the night before; a car full of teenagers had ploughed into another vehicle in rural Perthshire, causing numerous fatalities.

My TV newsdesk dispatched me that Sunday morning to cover the aftermath. Experience had taught me that in quiet villages, the newsagent was the focal point.

Gilet got out of his 4x4, and as he did so I introduced myself, microphone in hand and cameraman by my side, and asked if he’d like to comment for the evening news.

“You people are scum, you’re vultures,” he replied. “You are intruding on grief for your exaggerated headlines. Why don’t you just eff off? Journalists are the lowest form of humanity.”

He disappeared into the shop and returned a few minutes later carrying the biggest bundle of newspapers you will ever see.

READ MORE: Opinion - 'Tragedy on film set shows need for utmost care'

That’s the kind of viewpoint people often spit out when asked their opinion of the press, and of the media in general.

Many will base that viewpoint on the shameful News of the World phone hacking scandal of a decade ago, which is fair enough. But remember, it was journalists who uncovered Watergate, Thalidomide, the ‘cash for questions’ and MPs’ expenses scandals and who found Ronnie Biggs in Brazil, to name but a very few.

Press reporters, of course, plough the political furrow of their newspapers, but broadcasters don’t, because of a little thing called OFCOM rules.

It always makes me laugh when I hear it said that so and so is pro-union or pro-independence, pro-Rangers or pro-Celtic.

Generally it’s the case that if everybody is angry with journalists, then they must be doing something right.

Never once in 40 years as a journalist in newspapers, radio and television was I ordered to spin a story politically. The news agenda generally sets itself and news stories tend to write themselves anyway.

I am more than happy with how our journalists hold to account those who require it, particularly the current breed of politicians – some of whom display a staggering paucity of principles.

We need to cherish journalists with the guts and freedom to call out those who need it.

And after a lifetime of watching, listening and reading, and too many decades spent writing, I remember two things.

First, just because you don’t agree with something you see or hear in the media, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

And second, if you don’t like the press and media in this country, then pop across to North Korea and see if you like how the system works there.

READ MORE: Opinion - 'COP26 simply has to succeed for all our futures'