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August 1, 2008updated 23 Aug 2022 6:59pm

Hacks’ best words belong in 60pt

By Grey Cardigan greyblog

When I walked into The Shivering Whippet after work on Friday evening, Giles Coren’s coruscating criticisms were the main topic of conversation.

A table of graduate reporters is being entertained by the braying, ex-public school fuckwit who we’ve been lumbered with as a political reporter. And the arrogant little shit is telling a joke.

‘Two sub-editors are crawling through the desert”, he snorts. ‘The sun is high overhead. The buzzards are circling. They drag themselves over sand dune after sand dune.

‘Then, just as they are about to succumb to the savage heat and fatal thirst, they crest another dune and spy below them a small table, atop which stands a large cut-glass decanter of chilled, freshly squeezed orange juice.

‘The first sub turns to the second sub and says, ‘My God, isn’t that the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in your life?’

‘Yeah,’ says the second sub. ‘Let’s piss in it.'”

Oh, how the ill-educated cannon-fodder roared. At least until I went to sit down next to the supercilious poltroon and accidentally caught him with an elbow to the temple. Then
they all went quiet and scuttled off to call an ambulance.

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Now I can see where they are coming from on this. Which one of us (subs, that is) has never stolen a clever intro and used it for our heading and standfirst before inserting a more workmanlike intro in its place? I know I have.

But is that such a bad thing? Isn’t our job all about displaying the story to the best of our ability and encouraging people to read it by writing a compelling heading? And if we decide to steal the smart intro to attract readers, well, aren’t those clever words better used in 60pt rather than 9pt?

Your byline is still there; the reader thinks the reporter is responsible for everything from the typography to the photography, so the mere hack still gets the kudos. And more people are going to read your story, so what’s the problem?

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