A second draft of journalistic history

George_Helgesen_Fitch_circa_1915Back in 1914, George Fitch (right) defined the job of “The Reporter” for the George Matthew Adams Newspaper Service:

A reporter is a young man who blocks out the first draft of history each day on a rheumatic typewriter.

As always, re-drafting is the allied skill.

So, here comes a recent one, from the current issue of Private Eye‘s Street of Shame (page 7):

THE Sunday Times likes to boast that its foreign correspondents — figures such as Hala Jaber, Christina Lamb, the late Marie Colvin — have between them won pretty much every press award going over the past decade. Privately, however, it doesn’t seem to treasure them quite so dearly.

First the hacks were told that from now on they should travel everywhere by Easy Jet. This provoked a mutiny by Lamb, who was about to spend two days with President Shimon Peres in Israel: she flatly ignored the foreign desk’s advice that she fly overnight on the budget airline and go straight to the presidential palace.

The next edict was that war correspondents could no longer claim cabs to the airport — at which the hacks demanded how they were supposed to get there , given that they have to carry heavy flak jackets and helmets, huge boxes of medical kit, laptops , satphones and hiking boots, etc, quite apart from normal luggage. Unabashed, the beancounters have now come up with their most ingenious cost-cutting wheeze yet — issuing foreign correspondents with tents so they needn’t stay in hotels. Camping in Helmand, anyone?

Now, where did we see the first draft of that?

Scoop_coverAh, yes! Here it is! Well-thumbed, seriously foxed, “Reprinted 1961” — which quite probably makes it about the best, and most enduring half-a-crown expended that year.

Chapter 3, pages 44-45 (which amounts to an 80-times price hike on that earlier copy).

We meet William Boot, now “Boot of The Beast” collecting the kit recommended by Lord Copper, just after he has sorted the problem of the cleft sticks:

William, hesitating between polo sticks and hockey sticks, chose six of each; they were removed to the workshop. Then Miss Barton led him through the departments of the enormous store. By the time she had finished with him, William had acquired a well-, perhaps rather over-, furnished tent, three months’ rations, a collapsible canoe, a jointed flagstaff and Union Jack, a hand-pump and sterilizing plant, an astrolabe, six suits of tropical linen and a sou’wester, a camp operating table and set of surgical instruments, a portable humidor, guaranteed to preserve cigars in condition in the Red Sea, and a Christmas hamper complete with Santa Claus costume and a tripod mistletoe stand, and a cane for whacking snakes. Only anxiety about time brought an end to his marketing. At the last moment he added a coil of rope and a sheet of tin…


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Filed under Evelyn Waugh, Private Eye, Quotations, Sunday Times

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