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

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Sad when you think of his wasted life

HOW I BECAME A HACK Part two. After two years as tea boy (Part one) I became a junior reporter at a district office serving morning, evening and (mostly) weekly papers. Picking up:

Shorthand. (Above) Chrysanthemum and herbaceous border in Pitman. A 1000-word article based on a chrysanthemum society techno-talk demands shorthand. Memory alone is inadequate and dangerous. I had 100 wpm certificate, could write 120 wpm but bad handwriting meant bad shorthand. Later, shorthand hindered my writing ability. Shorthand recorded what was said not what was done; this inhibited comment and imagination.

Interviewing. Haphazard, self-taught: uneducated youth struggling in adult-dominated society. Teaching oneself to ask: Your husband was killed today in car crash, what school did he go to?

Understanding institutions. Meetings of special-interest groups, local councils, governing bodies of churches, etc, follow patterns. Certain events within a pattern are newsworthy, others not. Vital to understand patterns of procedure at courts-at-law. Contempt of Court provisions permit unlimited punishment for unwary.

Typing. Self-taught with high level of motivation. Guideline: ability to write 1000-word article in one hour on to typewriter from scratch.

Writing style. Theoretically unimportant since articles were formulaic. However, a better style might catch the eye of someone important. Other reasons: pride and cuttings book.

What is news? Overrated judgment picked up by almost everyone after two weeks in journalism. Definition: a tiny exception in a dross pile of the expected. Sometimes a fact; more often something said. Recognition tip: newsworthy stuff comes with its own implicit headline.

Endurance. Sixty-hour weeks common. Social life so fragmented I drank during brief interstices as my only hobby. Avoiding clich├ęs, I became one.

Part three. Learning to write