Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Lost world revisited

HOW I BECAME A HACK. Part one. Now you need a degree. Then (1951) not a single qualification. Just as well since I started work, age 15, before GCEs were announced and my score was meagre.

An absolute beginner I carried mugs of tea for reporters and sub-editors, collected hourly editions of the newspaper from the press-room, opened mail, picked up hand-written copy from reporters covering magistrate courts, called on those whose relatives had died and asked for photos of deceased. Working day 8.30 am to 5 pm, five-and-a half days a week, Saturday a full working day. Salary £1 10s. a week

Reporting opportunities occurred in evening, mainly amateur dramatics no one else wanted to attend. Occasionally two in one evening. Watched first act, got bus back to Bradford, wrote story, handed it over. Home by 10 pm. Paid 1 p a line for anything published.

What was expected ? Never defined but eventually inferred. A deep-seated belief that newspaper journalism was the best job – the only job. Acute cynicism developed from watching lives wrecked in court cases. That I would read novels copiously, jeer at those who offended house style (eg, “… where a doctor pronounced him dead.” I pronounce you dead!), spell well without recourse to a dictionary, treasure gossip and tolerate active homosexuality.

Access to all national newspapers; frequently read The Daily Worker (now Morning Star), the Communist Party sheet. Education/punishment: via calculated humiliation. My immediate boss, the chief reporter, rude and cruel: enoyed making women reporters cry. Did I cry? Perhaps, can’t be sure. During first year I was so tired I used to sleep until 2 pm on Sundays.

Part two: The necessary skills.