Tuesday, March 25, 2008

You cannot hope to bribe or twist

New that an Italian court has ruled that nepotism is a crime prompts the Telegraph to wax whimsical about how nepotism "makes Italy more Italian". There is a little barb at the end of the leader, however: "Those determined to employ their families could always stand for our own Parliament."

Or get a job in British journalism, as the writer did not add. One thinks instantly of some the Telegraph's star names and the fact that many of the paper's younger, high-profile columnists owe their positions to having parents (and grand-parents in one case) who are well-known names in journalism (talent is not really a factor; one of the said columnist's columns give every impression of having been scrawled in crayon on the desk of the comment editor) and the reason for the leader writer's discretion becomes apparent.

Not that the Telegraph is in any way exceptional in this. All newspapers feel the need to provide a "young person's perspective" and by far the easiest way to do this is find a young person who just happens to be related to someone in a senior position. I can think of at least two broadsheet editors who, in recent years, have given their daughters jobs (a column in one case) and a host of other pundits, writers and commentators who have been given a helping hand by well-placed family members. Again, ability doesn't really come into it.

I've been slightly coy about naming names, partly because it would be invidious to single out individuals (and, frankly, lots of people would take advantage of similar opportunities were they so offered), but mainly because there are so many other beneficiaries of journalistic nepotism I'd be sure to overlook some of the most egregious examples.

This isn't the worst aspect of British journalism (how long have you got? The fact that the way to get ahead is to do plenty of unpaid work experience, which heavily favours those who can afford to do so, is far more harmful). Nepotism is, however, considerably more annoying.

It's part of what makes Fleet Street more Fleet Street-ish, I suppose.



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