IF anyone asks me these days what I do for a living, I tell them: ‘I’m a polisher and roller.’
Naturally, they’re impressed at what sounds like a skilled arts-and-crafts job.
If only they knew I spent most of my working hours ‘polishing’ turds and then ‘rolling’ them in glitter.
Yes, I work as a news sub-editor (or is that sub editor? Subs please check) on a national newspaper.
Long gone are Arthur Christiansen’s days of the serried ranks of subs whose ways with words made grown men weep and upped circulations by the tens of thousands.
No, death by a thousand cuts has left us a weakened battalion fighting a nightly onslaught of turds from the jobbing clerks on news desk and their call centre of reporters.
No fact is too sacred to be rendered wrongly by our enemies over the hill. There’s no comment that cannot be stripped of meaning by them. And no story where Ctrl A, C and V shouldn’t have a byline too.
In short, we modern subs are the losers in a one-way onslaught of sloppy news stories that look brown, smell badly and are, let’s face it, shit.
In our trenches, the worst turds – lobbed at us like a shower of German stick grenades – invariably come from the swivel-eyed press corps and associated wonks at parliament.
Polishing one of their turds will invariably ruin your rag – for the patina can never shine, even faintly. And no glitter known to man or history is able to stick to the outer shell of a politics story and then sparkle.
In civvy street, the politics story wears the clothes of an unforgiving game of KerPlunk where the whole tower of marbles collapses no matter how few straws are pulled.
All hail, though, to the sub who successfully makes a politics story shine. But it’s akin to mixing matter and antimatter – there will inevitably be an explosion and the political editor will escape the brown stuff. Court stories come with similar UXB warnings.
On one day a week we can also expect a blitzkrieg from our columnists – those souls and celebrities whose copy cannot be touched. Ever. Even if their own words make them look like arseholes.
One of our star columnists is a self-satisfied Middle-Class Busy Mum. Yet she’s so ‘pre-occupied’ she never has time to write anything interesting. Every week it’s the same MO: she does a quick, slapdash scan of the weekend papers before hitting the keyboard.
What she does write is, invariably, wrong. Facts, spellings, names are all wrong. And she’ll lob in a libel or two and a couple of contempts-of-court for good measure.
Everything she writes needs to be checked exhaustively. And that’s before the lawyers-of-death wield their bayonets at night. It may have been ever thus for subs but the Middle-Class Busy Mum passeth all understanding.
To give her her dues, though, she does have an extraordinary talent – for latching on to any tragedy in the world and referring to her husband and children in the same breath. If only she were like our other columnist who writes well and is bright, witty and articulate. And doesn’t mention her family at every fucking turn.
In the course of such battles, you might think showbusiness would offer some light relief.
But the very best of these correspondents is now being muscled out by cheap drop-intro snipers. Every story, invariably about a TOWIE-like non-entity, starts with a pronoun. It’s what they do in the US, apparently.
Away from the theatre of war, if anyone asks me what I do for a living I really have to give up any pretence of soldiering on in an art-and-crafts job. I tell them: ‘I just press buttons on a computer all day.’