Thursday, May 25, 2006

Dispatches from downtable.

It's a great life being a reporter - your name's in the paper, you get to touch celebrities on a regular basis, and best of all you're constantly depicted in newspaper-based fiction (usually written by ex-reporters) as hard-working, hard-drinking and hard-assed.

It's different for subs. Ours is a lonelier, less acknowledged furrow. There's no subbing equivalent of All The President's Men. No-one will ever know it was you that came up with "Nice to CBE you, to CBE you nice!" on the story of Brucie's gong. (That said, my mother freakishly did know that I had written the side-splittingly funny "Nesting falcons are birds of pray" on a story about some hawks in a church tower. Am I really that given to bad puns?)

Subs are like goalkeepers - only noticed when we cock up in some extravagant way, such as printing a picture of a schoolteacher instead of a rapist, or printing an interview saying the defendant definitely dunnit just as the jury retires, or not spotting an horrific double entendre in a headline. (My favourite example: the story about a woman with dementia who absconded from a care home in the middle of the night. Cue picture of distraught family reunited with Nan, under the headline, "FAMILY'S HORROR AT GRANNY'S EARLY MORNING DISCHARGE.")

Yes, yes, there's Bill Bryson (an ex-Times subeditor) but he keeps suspiciously quiet about his time downtable, possibly because he worked in Wapping as Murdoch was breaking the print unions, and fears reprisals from hardened comps, armed to the teeth with leading and sharpened colour plates.

But I've now discovered that there is someone out there who also knows the pain of finding "Colleen McCloughlin" referred to in copy. His name is the Grey Cardigan, he writes for the Press Gazette, and he's the most miserable, cynical man in the world. So much so that sometimes I wonder if I'm living some kind of Tyler Durden-esque existence and actually writing the column.

Here he is on budget-vortex Liz Jones: 'I accept that the best advice to columnists is "write what you know", and I recognise the quality of self-revelation that allows the best of the breed to strike a chord with their readers. But since when has any bunnyboiling harridan been so willing to destroy their own marriage just for the amusement of onlookers? It's like being a spectator at Bedlam.'

And just for Artegall: "I would like to say that Professor Roy "Gotcha" Greenslade's weekly missive in The Daily Telegraph will be sadly missed.

Unfortunately, when the tea fund is £2.80 light, one of the NUJ dissidents has flooded the toilets in an attack on corporate greed and they've just banned smoking within 50 yards of the building, a shape-shifting lizard banging on at vast length about how many Chinese journalists are in prison in Beijing doesn't really cut the fucking mustard."

Sigh. What a man.


Blogger hangthedj said...

Isn't this "Guttersniper's" favourite column as well. Prefer Axe Grinder meself...

5/26/2006 11:11 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your blog (found via britblog by the way).

Top Gear, Bill Bryson, Radiohead and a hack, this was enough to make me think you might want to help...

If you have a moment, please visit:

If you support the idea please tell your friends.

Thanks AgNo

5/27/2006 9:20 am  
Anonymous galatea said...

Talking of columnists, this James May column on chivalry was devilish entertaining.

5/28/2006 8:08 pm  

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