In an essay written in 1969 called Stop The Press I Want To Get On, Nicholas Tomalin (you’ve read it here several times before) wrote that ‘The only qualities essential for real success in journalism are rat-like cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability.’
As a matter of fact, we think that ‘rat-like cunning’ was actually coined by our old friend Murray Sayle, but the rest is Tomalin’s.
And there was more to it than that, of course.
There were other, less-essential, qualities, he said: ‘A knack with telephones, trains, and petty officials; a good digestion and a steady head; total recall; enough idealism to inspire indignant prose…
‘…a paranoid temperament; an ability to believe passionately in second-rate projects; well-placed relatives; good luck; the willingness to betray, if not friends, acquaintances; a reluctance to understand too much too well (because tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner and tout pardonner makes dull copy);…’
‘…an implacable hatred of spokesmen, administrators, lawyers, public-relations men, politicians and all those who would rather purvey words than policies; and the strength of character to lead a disrupted personal life…’
The ‘knack with telephones’ may have changed, but has much else?
In a thoughtful piece in The Times this week, Ed Caesar reports that there are still thousands of kids every year desperate to stop those presses and crash in.
Crash in, not cash in. The average journalist’s salary, he says, is £24,500. You wonder why they bother (or you may read their stuff and think they’re overpaid). Click on the link to read the full piece.
Will they find anything resembling a free lunch? Mike Gallemore did. At least… it was always free for somebody.
Talking of which, whose round is it? Bill Greaves has been mooching around Fleet Street for long enough to know that there are no rules. So, wisely, he wrote some.