There are many things in life that scare the hell out of me. Horror films, people with B.O and the Cookie Monster from Sesame Street to name just a few. But two online newspaper "columns" I've read during the last week have to top the lot. Both have been published on prestigious online newspaper sites. Both bring a whole new meaning to bad journalism.
A small part of me died when I read Richard Dennen's 'gay party animal' piece for the Evening Standard. And words cannot describe my reaction to sex-obsessed 51-year-old Julie Burchill's column for the Indy. I wouldn't know where to start in critiquing either article. It was clear from the offset neither writer has the ability to string a sentence together, never mind master the art of punctuation. In fact, the only journalistic talent on the page came from the readers themselves in the comments section.
Never in my life have I read such rubbish. Not even in my local free paper, which, to be fair, has printed some very questionable material. Having never heard of either writer, I googled them and found, to my horror, they are both successful journalists. Burchill in particular has had a very lucrative career - starting out aged 17 at the NME and moving steadily upwards to reach the dizzy heights of the Sunday Times. Dennen hasn't done too badly either, writing for Tatler - the magazine for the privileged social elite. Which leads me to wonder...is talentless the new talented?
I've since heard rumours that both pieces are spoofs; publicity stunts designed to attract as much traffic to each site as possible. If this is the case they've certainly been successful. Dennen's piece has attracted 65 reader comments, with Burchill receiving a staggering 111. With the average article drawing 1-2 comments they've kicked up a storm. 99% may be negative, but hey, don't they say any publicity is good publicity?
Spoof or not, there's no getting away from the fact these people can't write. Being an aspiring journalist myself it saddens me to see talentless writers getting the gig whilst others with genuine ability are thrown on the reject pile. The much-used phrase "it's not what you know, it's who you know" seems very applicable here. Richard Dennen's shameless name-dropping makes it clear one of his contacts got him a foot in the door. In fairness to Julie Burchill, she got into the NME off her own back, but now has an array of famous friends (and ex-husbands) in her phonebook who have no doubt helped her along the way.
Call me envious (and I am!) but I beg these two to find another profession before they're hunted down by an angry mob. Oh, and please give their columns to me...