“I read the newspapers with lively interest. It is seldom that they are absolutely, point-blank wrong. That is the popular belief, but those who are in the know can usually discern an embryo of truth, a little grit of fact, like the core of a pearl, round which have been deposited the delicate layers of ornament.” 

– Evelyn Waugh, ‘Scoop’

When we (or at least I) think of journalism in the former half of the twentieth century, it’s all marble floors and stiff black coffees in lofty New York high-rises. It’s brassy young writers tapping furiously on their typewriters in a cloud of cigarette smoke and cologne, pausing occasionally to wipe the sweat from their brow with an impeccably tailored jacket sleeve. “I’ve got it!” they shout, stubbing out that cigarette and tearing the final page of a story from their typewriter. “This one’s really gonna shake ‘em up.”

Okay, so that’s probably a fantasy exclusive to myself, and it’s easy to ignore the undercurrent of misogyny and racism which was a symptom of the entire era – easily discernible in the Capote excerpt included in a couple of paragraphs’ time – but there’s still a literary elegance in earlier journalism which is easy to miss today, when quoting a single sentence from the Mail Online that will probably require several insertions of ‘[sic]‘.


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