Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Another Guardian Comment Bites The Dust

I left a comment over at The Guardian which has now been censored like so many others when a nobody dares question a celebrity. However, I don’t see why my carefully chosen words can’t find a home here and it gives me a chance to edit them a little to clarify my point. The comment was in response to this piece by Lily Cole.
I have more interesting things to do than hold any grudge against Lily Cole. Before I saw her Guardian article this afternoon, I was only dimly aware that she is a successful model with features that are possibly more striking than they are attractive. However, as a journalist, she can’t really claim an equal degree of success. Would a real journalist offer such a gnarly piece of phrasing as ‘arriving to New York’ or misuse an apostrophe in ‘it’s’ instead of ‘its’? Yet, at the same time, what right do I have to complain? In a room containing only myself and Lily Cole, only 50% of us would be published journalists and it wouldn’t be the side of the room with the whiskers and perpetual frown.

Like many freelance writers, I have sent articles into The Guardian via 'Comment is Free' and I heard nothing every time until I eventually stopped trying. Rejections might have kept me going but silence eventually gnaws through the sinews connecting your brain with your soul and that frustrates me because I’m not, by nature, a quitter. I am, however, a realist and I see no reason to continue to flog a horse when it’s lying bloating beside the road. Not when there are other ways of navigating what Hunter S Thompson might well have been describing when he talked of ‘the proud highway’.

Yet I'm not exactly a beginner when it comes to writing. I think I know how to phrase things quite well. I’ve had books published and even if I haven’t had any commercial success, I’m not a complete stranger to the occasional good review. Even The Guardian itself has published reviews of my work and suggested that I’m not without wit. Yet try to turn that praise into income and I fail every time. I hear nothing even when I submit articles which others have said are good, thought provoking and sometimes pretty bloody funny.

I know this comment will ultimately go to the place where comments go when they don’t follow guidelines. The Guardian doesn’t like anybody questioning their editorial choices or the abilities of their writers and I can hardly blame them. It’s actually commendable that they have started to defend their writers from undeserved criticism given the levels of abuse that are sometimes tolerated ‘below the line’.

And I certainly don’t take any pleasure in constantly criticising The Guardian yet publishing shambolic articles written by celebrities devalues the work of real journalists and freelance writers. The Guardian remains one of the last and best places where we could practice our art yet they prefer to give jobs to famous amateurs and dilettantes.

I expected better.

Before a version of this comment was deleted, it received some good (and a few lame) replies. Some accused me (rather predictably) of ‘sour grapes’ but others were better than that and I penned this reply which I didn’t have chance to publish. The debate had ended less than fifteen minutes after it had begun.
I’m smiling because some of the replies were just too damn reasonable to my bad tempered comment. I accept your points (and that made by R042). Perhaps it is just a case of ‘sour grapes’ but I was simply trying to voice a concern that everybody should have about the way that modern celebrity intrudes into areas which were once home to professionals.

MancunianPsycho suggests I should ‘write something more interesting’ but that’s just a stock reply voiced when anybody dare question the style or substance of an article. I do write many things and I submit many but never with any success. I accept that I’m probably just not interesting enough but there must surely be plenty of others that are. Hell, I know others that are a damn site more interesting and could provide websites details and email addresses.

"I thought of the TV show, and indeed it’s movies that inspired her"

I accept that it could be read as 'it is movies that inspired her' but I maintain that it's also damn clunky.

Again, I don’t have a problem with Lily Cole. Actually, I can see some value in the article, though perhaps not enough to justify its publication. I’m really just saddened by the way that our culture seems vaguely at odds with the interests of the common man and woman. It really does appear that we have to have a ‘celebrity name’ before our views become important.

There was an excellent piece in The Guardian just yesterday in which Joan Smith noted how the tabloid response to the sad death of L'Wren Scott almost ignored the deceased in their clamour to publish photos of Mick Jagger. Yet that was just a symptom of the very same problem evident in many of the broadsheets. We live in an age that is utterly at the mercy of the marketing people, in which you must have that hook or moment of fame on which to hang your opinions, otherwise you might as well not exist. The rest of us must content ourselves by expressing ourselves through cat memes or hoping for a celebrity retweet on Twitter.


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