I’m never sure whether journalists more resemble prostitutes when dealing with editors or when talking to people who want to be in the newspapers.
In the second case, we get to watch our clients in grip of degrading passions, yet convinced that they and they alone are truly special. In the first case, we get to be degraded ourselves.
All these thoughts brought on because I spent yesterday writing for the Daily Mail. I’ll give it up, mother, but I need the money. And I tell myself, perhaps with some truth, that what I would write about Rowan is far nicer, and more illuminating than what anyone else would write about him. Also, I get to nail the guys who hate him as shrill bigots, which is not how they would like the Mail to describe them.
Most of what I wanted to say got said, I think. I still haven’t bought the paper the check, but the last draft I saw had nothing too dreadful in it. Yet the whol ething had been completely rewritten and chewed up anyway, just to break up the rhythm of the sentences, and to remove everything that wasn’t a cliche.
I know I’m spoiled My first sub-editor, when I started out in journalism, was Peter Ackroyd. And there are plenty of other editors who actually improve things; some of them even work on newspapers. But it is still remarkable how limited tabloid language is, and what measures are taken to keep novelty out of newspapers because readers want everything in familiar chunks. Everything has to be broken into one rhythm; you are limited to about twenty verbs, among them the perfectly harmless but strictly meterological “hail”, which is in Mail-speak a verb — the verb — expressing approbation.
Actually, the Mail is much more careful of truth than the Sunday Times — except when it comes to politics. The people with whom I deal there are unfailingly courteous and civilised. The same is true even of the Daily Express which is owned by the disgusting pornographer Richard Desmond. And I write for him too: this web site is partly subsidised by Spunk Loving Sluts and Posh Wives.
But it would be nice, one day, to be hired by someone who wanted me as a dom and not a sub. I think I could manage that.