Grey Cardigan

Speedy Writer For Hire…

AFTER BEMOANING the lack of paying jobs for redundant journalists, I thought it only fair to publicise one that comes with the promise of an actual salary.

“Speedy Writer Required,” the online advertisement reads, “to write marketing material for our clients. For each client you will interview them for 45 minutes over the phone. The interview will be sent away for transcription and then you turn it into 5,000 words of perfect prose. Using that material you will write six one-page press releases for the client and then twelve 500-word articles, each around a certain ‘keyword’ provided to you for the client’s website.

“Speed is of the essence; turning the transcript into a 5,000 word document should take no more than three hours, the six press releases, one hour in total, the 12 articles, two and a half hours and the website rewrite 90 minutes.”

“Immediate start possible, with starting salary of £20,000 per annum.”

Right, I am fast. I can knock out a complicated story against deadline without breaking a sweat. I can sub and layout pages like a whirling dervish. The more pressure, the better. I love it.

But could I meet the extraordinary demands above? I very much doubt it.

This is not a proper job for a proper journalist. It entails demeaning drudgery and hamster-wheel shit-spouting. You will not learn a thing from it and you will gain no job satisfaction. Sadly, there will be people desperate enough to take it on. And even more sadly, the advert was carried by that bastion of equality, fairness and worker’s rights, the Guardian.

A quick Google tells me that the employer, the National Association of Business Owners, was founded by one Jonathan Jay, who “began his career as a children’s entertainer and then became one of the UK’s leading Stage Hypnotists”. To be honest, he’d have to be a fucking magician to find a word wizard capable of what is expected.

THOSE OF us who have spent years subbing the Readers’ Letters page know full well how mind-bogglingly stupid certain sections of the general public can be. From the rabid anti-EU warriors, to the ‘coming over here and taking our jobs’ brigade, to the stamp out dog shit merchants, it is amazing how enraging little things can be to little minds.

And these were presumably the outraged viewers who were so stirred by the revealing dress worn by Holly Willoughby on prime-time telly flop The Voice that they picked up the phone and actually complained to the BBC about it. All 139 of them.

Now in a newspaper office, such green-inked missives would be immediately consigned to the bin. But not at the craven BBC, oh no. The Corporation, “thanks to the unique way it is funded”, decided that a public apology was necessary. So this is the organisation that happily gives an unquestioning platform to racists and extremists, but gets itself all in a tizz over a bit of lace and a pair of tits? Brilliant. Worth every penny of the £145.50 I’m suppose to pay them.

I’M AMBIVALENT about the Wannabe Hacks website, “a living, breathing journalism resource… produced by perspiring [sorry, ‘aspiring’] journalists”. I can see that it would be useful to the millions of middle-class kids who come churning out of faux universities every year clutching worthless media studies degrees, but I do find its tone somewhat hectoring and, if we’re honest, rather patronising to old people like me.

However, one post this week caught my attention. Writing about Local World’s strategy for its once great newspapers, Caroline Mortimer, writes: “Keeping the costs down when profit margins are squeezed is one thing. But reduce the quality too much and no-one will be interested in your product. The new ‘user driven’ content model won’t work for local media. It is a short-time cost-based model that won’t stand up to that fact people still want a quality product even if they are less willing to pay for it.”

Now if a university graduate can see that, why can’t the vastly-experienced Local World bosses? Out of the mouths of babes…

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Grey Cardigan

Written by Grey Cardigan

The Grey Cardigan has been in newspapers since the days of hot metal and expense accounts. After a lengthy career as chief sub on several regional newspapers, plus a multitude of shifts on the nationals, he was appointed editor of the Evening Beast in 2009 before being ignominiously 'rationalised' last year. He is currently collecting gas in jam jars in case the Russians cut us off. @thegreycardigan

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