In Defence of the Hack by D J Taylor

D J Taylor

In Defence of the Hack

 

NOT LONG AGO I sat down to conduct a little exercise that I generally carry out at this time of the year, in advance of the taxman's depredations: adding up how many pieces of freelance journalism I wrote in the preceding twelve months. The total, laboriously arrived at after much head-scratching and frequent trawls through the workbook, came as a shock. Granted, it had been a busy year. Granted, we had just moved house. Granted, I have three children between the ages of ten and two who need to be fed, clothed and educated. Even so, the 194 individual items that I had turned out for the national press between January and December 2002 seemed rather a lot. No doubt about it. I told myself, scanning the already dog-eared piles of print (dinky little Guardian comment columns, sedulous contributions to the Times Literary Supplement, book reviews for this publication and half-a-dozen others): you, my boy, are a hack.

Until fairly recently, to refer to someone as a 'hack' - certainly someone in the upper reaches of professional journalism - was almost actionable. Randolph Churchill once issued a writ against the News of the World on precisely these grounds. Curiously enough, I have always been rather proud of being

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

OUP Niven

Follow Literary Review on Twitter