I’ve just finished reading Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop which is, according to The Observer, “The funniest novel ever written about journalism”.
The story follows William Boot who is a Nature Columnist in the back pages of the Daily Beast, a fictional tabloid based on Waugh’s experiences working for the Daily Mail. Boot, by an unfortunate mistake of identity, finds himself summoned to the office of news media magnate, Lord Cooper, and subsequently sent to the African Republic of Ishmaelia to report on a civil war that isn’t actually happening. The book covers the back-stabbing tendencies of Fleet Street news correspondents, the paranoia and fragility of news institutions, the bizarre methods journalists will construct to create fictional news and all the while laughing whole-heartedly at the people who believe everything the papers have to say.
Whilst there is undoubtedly truth in his tale, Waugh does take his discredit of Fleet Street to extremes. I understand that magazine journalism, and more specifically fashion magazine journalism is probably not quite as fast paced as the daily print medium; but this book made me even more excited to one day work in the industry. The secret wireless telegrams (which are surely similar to BlackBerry instant messages), the typewriters (obviously old fashioned MacBooks), and of course the expenses accounts!
Waugh also pays impeccable detail to the descriptions of characters and their clothing. Whilst the fashion lacked within Scoop to that of other works by Waugh like Vile Bodies, it was certainly an element I enjoyed. Starched collars, linen suits and tie pins.
My finishing Scoop was well timed as no sooner had I put the paperback down and turned on BBC News than a documentary had started, following Simon Kelner, a fellow Manc, and Editor-In-Chief of The Indepedent. The quick documentary was a day-in-the-life-of format which started at Kelner’s 6:00am alarm call. This was succeeded by an hour of The Today Show, coffee, a read of the morning’s Independent, Tennis with the paper’s Managing Director, morning meeting, meetings, proof reads, interviews with prospective Labour party leaders, interviews over Luncheon, afternoon meetings and front-page confirmation, proofs, art proofs, and dinner.
I don’t know if I could be Kelner everyday but I’d love a go!