Dear reader, I ask you, can it be true that there is a caste, a claque, a clique (hold on while I turn the page) of journalists who form the top, the tip, the peak, the apex, and the very cream of those of us slaving at word processors like so many Aleksei Stakhanovs among the rest of the stunted emphysemic toilers. Is there really an immiscible fast-track for the stars?
I (moi, myself, ego) ask because there are doubters who do not understand the difference between Harry Hatchet (ne Steele, but I believe that suggested the nom de guerre of a certain unperson among the Decent Left) and Decent Dave. The I’s, let me tell you, have it.
Big Dave’s former employers may print a rather onanistic column slagging off the great man (and I mean “great”: when he goes round the house, he goes round the house). But they also with tehgrauniad pluralism (aka “the left ring finger doesn’t know what the left middle finger is doing”) call him a supercolumnist. Cristina Odone talks a lot of wank, but this is like the dark matter of wank: there’s far more where this came from than there is matter in the observable universe. Did tehgrauniad really pay “well north of a 1/4 million a year for the total package” for Sir Simon Jenkins as Tim Worstall claims? I’d do it for a few pints; I’m sure decent writers cost a bit more, but well inside a grand a week. (And the saving? can you really fix cataracts in the Third World for a tenner as Grauniad ads used to claim? and those $100 dollar wind-up Linux laptops? I make the difference well north of 10,000 of the former or 2,000 of latter. Just making Grauniad-reader type points.)
Why do these big mouths earn so much? Do newspaper proprietors really cower lest they go on strike again? (Sorry.) Ms Odone says:
In an era when, thanks to Google and Wikipedia, facts are no longer sacred and are free, comment has become the big draw. When Veronica Wadley, editor of the London Evening Standard, decided to give her paper a “new look”, she did not change the size or adopt a new masthead: she introduced a roster of new columnists. The New York Times also recognises the hegemony of the columnist. It has just introduced a fee-paying scheme for its online edition, whereby access to the rest of the paper remains free but columnists’ writings can only be read at a price.
This is barking. Comment is free. Don’t ask me. Or C.P. Scott, read all those teenage girls writing online journals insiders call “weblogs” and the truly hip simply “blogs.” Facts? Feh. I’ll write about it here, thanks. All I know is what I read in the New York Times — and that it’s biased.
Columnists row, adopt extreme positions and probe taboos in a way our elected representatives and disaffected citizenry fail to do.
I see Cristina missed the Tory party conference and indeed Michael Howard’s election campaign. Probe taboos? Don’t comedians get a vote? Clearly Ms Odone has never taken a taxi cab or visited a public house.
For this, Suzanne Moore, a Mail on Sunday columnist, says, the writer has to “have a sustaining, identifiable position, a recognisable ideology that may even become an obsession”.
Failing those, “fuck-me boots” will do. (© Dr Germaine Greer.)
Where broadcasters fear being attacked as biased and politicians as bigoted, the columnist will happily weigh in with unpalatable opinions – spiced, if a heavyweight is writing, with an obscure fact or two – about everything from gay rights to immigrant quotas.
How dare you! Dave looks quite svelte these days. If he keeps the diet up, he’ll be able to use the revolving doors when he visits the BBC — by 2020 at the outside.
Today, they [columnists] readily switch titles, in pursuit of bigger bucks or a higher profile – Simon Jenkins, David Aaronovitch, Simon Heffer and Richard Littlejohn have all recently played this game of musical chairs.
How can I say this? Newspaper = news, sport, crossword, tv listings. Not fat pontificating bastards. Does anyone give a shit?