Monday, 14 September 2009

Dinosauraus extinctus?

Are curmudgeonly old hacks in the newsroom a good thing?
In my opinion they are. I would even go further and demand they are in the newsroom.
I am prompted to make this plea after reading two particularly interesting stream of comments on blogs on UKPG and the Meeja Guardian.
In a nutshell both contain criticism and immediate defence of two veteran newsmen. One is described as a "a repulsive bully and a dinosaur - the type of which is, luckily, dying out in british (sic) newsrooms". The other "tough and abrasive" and a "handful".
This is exactly what our increasingly clinical newsrooms need.
One reporter's bully is another's mentor. One's abrasion is another's passion.
The interesting thing about these so called 'dinosaurs' is there is more support for their type of journalism than their detractor's condemnation of their style.
And, in the case of one, support comes from some seriously heavy hitters.
I love grumpy old bastard hacks. I always have.
Jesus, I should, I will be one soon.
I don't care they are rude, or upset people. I love it.
After all, with sometimes more than thirty years in the business don't you think they deserve the right to moan? Most of you are bitching after just 18 months in.
Their experience and contacts alone are worth five cocky young 'uns who think they can change the face of journalism in their first year after leaving college clutching a grubby media and communications degree (2:2 clearly).
You can learn more from a 'dinosaur' in ten minutes than you can in a month from your 24-year-old news editor who got the promotion because he happened to be the only senior in the office during the recruitment freeze.
Dinosaurs generally drink too much, have little or no desire to conform, hate the management and take a lot to get motivated.
They have been there, done that and got the free t-shirt from the PR.
But get them excited about a tale and watch the show.
The distinction must be made, however, between the passionate, ageing hack and the old fart destined to be taken outside and shot.
Both may be equally cantankerous, awkward and obnoxious.
But one still loves the job and is invaluable and the other is an old fart who should have been fired years ago but now it will cost too much. Management are just hoping they will die soon.
I don't like their negativity and I don't like their stink.
For the truly great old hacks treat them like you would a flea bitten yet cuddly, slightly lame, dog.
Take the piss and poke them all you like but don't be surprised when the evil fucker bites you.


  1. And remember Blunt that behind the beer-stained tie, trousers held together by fag ash and disturbing smell of old men's piss, they will always regard you as the spotty nervous Nigel who somehow ended up in the editor's swivel chair.
    And one day, if newspapers last as long, you will go to their wake and take their place.

  2. You are so right.
    My first boss position was met with much derision by our resident curmudgeonly old bastard every day with the words: 'I could do a fucking better job than that pup'.
    Maybe he could, except for the fact bang on 1pm he would go to the pub for two and a half hours and come back so sozzled he could barely walk.
    God love 'em.

  3. I love proper hacks, but they really are dying out. The kids now aren't prepared to put up with the increasingly poor wages and poorer working conditions, and who can blame them?
    I think that's desperately sad.
    I learnt a lot from a beer-soaked old boy on my second paper, and had possibly the most horrendously insulting editor on my third paper. But she was also head and shoulders above anyone else I've worked with since. The talented among her staff loved her as much as they loathed her, the less talented just loathed her.
    I honestly believe I wouldn't be sitting in an editors chair now if I hadn't learnt from her, especially as I'm someone with a 2:2 in media and communications (joint with English Studies, if that makes it any worse).

  4. Vicious Dried Up Old Hag16 September 2009 at 15:57

    Barry writes:
    'the most horrendously insulting editor'

    I have a feeling this could be me. And by the way - I still don't give a fuck about the less talented who loathed me (mostly taken on against my better judgement because the news ed thought they 'seemed nice' and we needed bums on seats. At least that's my excuse).
    Ah, but the talented.... still love them to bits and they can buy me a drink anytime.

  5. I was lucky enough to work for several years with a geezer that fits the "curmudgeonly old bastard" description.

    In the end he was put out to pasture by the company's chief editor after more than 30 years of dedicated service to the paper. Worst thing they ever did - he was grouchy and dogmatic, and could be an absolute arse, but he was also shit hot. And most of all he was respected and trusted by the readers, so it's been an uphill struggle to redeem the paper in the eyes of many since he left.

    Great reporter, great writer and no bullshit - there were times we didn't get on but he was worth his weight in gold to this newspaper, and a great, if inadvertant, mentor.