Thursday, June 21, 2007

If someone's byline picture makes you want to punch them, do it

Julie Burchill quits journalism. Her modus operandi was once summed up as: Julie walks down the street and sees a dog. She doesn't like the dog. She goes home and writes a column saying all dogs should be killed. Result: profit.

Here's Toby Young (even more aptly described as 'wanker journalist'), a former associate of hers bleating about what a tough game journalism is. He clearly feels he hasn't received his fair reward. I agree. If this were so he'd be shuffling outside Bethnal Green tube station in piss-stained trousers hassling passers-by for the price of another tin of special brew.

There's also the argument about how the rigours of journalism. It's true for many: those labouring away in obscurity working long hours for low pay on often tedious topics and little reward. Yet it can be a well-paid, rewarding job for those that land the prime roles. Of course, many are toadies, careerists and well-connected; but at least some get there through talent and they all have to work for their keep.

But in all the halls of the media mansions, the most parasitic, useless and contemptible creatures are those whose living depends on nothing more than having the chutzpah to spout complete bollocks to order in the hope of getting a reaction. Without a remarkable degree of egotism, a congenital inability to deal with subtlety and – often – excellent contacts from family and friends, they would be nothing. At least Burchill got to where she did on her own merits (or otherwise) but you can probably think of plenty of examples to whom all that applies.

The thing is, the Toby Youngs of this world may not be on massive money, but it's a damn sight more than a dedicated and skilled sub or reporter will get. Especially in the case of those who can get sacked, write a 'ha ha, what a twat I am' piece about it and find some credulous star-fucker who'll pay you to carry on in the same vein.

In the unlikely event of me being a newspaper comment editor, I would be sorely tempted to sack almost all my columnists. The internet's full of people who can rant coherently, advance partisan views and so forth. They'd be much cheaper – and every bit as good – than all but a handful of star columnists. But if I were another sort of editor I'd want to make sure that skilled reporters who knew their patch, or the sharpest subs, were kept.

Incidentally, my irritation at this state of affairs reaches danger level when I see journalists described as 'controversial'. It's the most asinine and anodyne of phrases one could use when describing a public figure who takes stances on certain things. And so it was today when, of all the things you could say about the two Hitchens brothers, the Beeb decided to tell us (prior to their stint on Question Time that) both are 'controversial'. Really? It's just as well they're not going to be appearing on Why Can't We All Just Get Along Time. In journalism anyone who aspires to something beyond Lorraine Kelly is controversial. At least with Hitchens, C you know you're getting quality bile.



Blogger Glamourpuss said...

Funny, I nearly blogged about Christopher Hitchens today. He's smart, but he still needs a kick in the twat.

(Totally and utterly agree with you on the columnists. I find 99.9% of them unbearable.)

8:22 pm  
Blogger Quink said...

I'd be content with a paper that had a Parliamentary sketch by Hoggart, a diary by Matthew Norman, a satirical column by Craig Brown, a Telegraph approach to obituaries and a column by Francis Wheen. With that lot I could happily dispense with most of the rest of the contents, quite possibly including the news.

11:01 pm  
Blogger bill said...

Well no one reads newspapers for news, dear boy. The interweb and TV rather take of that. But what you seem to want the Graun of about 12 years ago. Dangerous thing, nostalgia.

(On a more trainspottery level, I'd add that people buy papers if the business, arts and/or sports coverage is good.)

Puss, the thing to remember about Hitchens is his mother's justification for sending him to an exceedingly minor public school. "If there is going to be a ruling class, then Christopher is going to be part of it."

He pretty much acts up (or down to that).

11:33 pm  

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