I remember when I first discovered William Hazlitt, and it was like something was removed from me; a filter that had previously obscured my perception of the world, and of the power of writing. I read prodigiously along a trail that started with Hazlitt, and went over Ned Ward, to modern essayists like Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens. I felt, this is something that I want to do. This is something I can do. This looks like it could be my little corner of the English Language to putter around in and employ what little talents I have.
I have been doing that in my journals over the last few years, and here on the blog as well. I see it as honing a craft that I never knew that I would be that interested in, if I even consciously made the connection that what I was doing was a form of journalism.
Instead of recognising that what I was doing was journalism, I had this utterly nebulous idea that I needed a bread-winning profession like teaching to support me while I wrote what would, of course, be the combination of J K Rowling’s success and Charles Dickens’ pathos. Instead, here is this field that allow me to play and push and agitate and think and whine.
But there is one problem. I would have to become a journalist. Today, wanting to become that is somewhat alike to admitting to having an ambition to gain political expense accounts or to start a career in Catholic Child care. In the public mind, the journalist is possibly more respected than expense fiddling politicians and paedophile priests. Possibly.
I run into my own pride, and my own work ethic. When I do something, I don’t want to be automatically suspected, or automatically rejected, simply because of my profession. I don’t want to be instantly dismissed as a biased, criminal, heartless, and ethics-impaired hack.
I do want to be respected for what I do. So, can I then become a journalist? That is the question I’ve been struggling with, and this is the point where you can roll your eyes about the arrogance of youth, or the ignorance. I do not know which one is the more prominent since I have a very vague idea of what journalism is all about, except that the core idea of it seems very exciting.
Back to the magazine. As I told you, I’ve been working on a template for the student magazine with Scribus for a few days – or rather, I have worked on learning the program while at the same time, at a snail’s pace, trying to fiddle a template out of the aether or out of my arse. I don’t know which of those I should blame either. But as I was working on the magazine, it struck me – my kvetching about journalism depends on working within the structures of established media. I could, you know, do something of my own.
And this here is the point where my dad calls, having read this, screaming about squandering money and effort on something I don’t know anything about, and that I should learn a trade before I attempt to revolutionize said trade. Learn before I can walk, and all that. But that would be missing the point, would it not?
You can learn as you go. Intelligence is not about how much you know, but how quickly and efficiently you can acquire knowledge that you don’t already have. So, maybe I’ve been thinking about this all wrong, and maybe I should take this opportunity to do the phone based thing for my own sake, and learn that as I go. It needn’t cost anything, if I do it myself. And then I can dictate the way it’s received, and separate it from the malign and disgraced practices of journalism up to now. Maybe it can, even, be some form of new journalism that doesn’t base on the Daily Mail’s revolting ethics or the Telegraph’s debased bias. Maybe it can be this new thing.