No fee, no win

Carol Sarler (“Mix the ladies with the tramps”, 12 August)
spotlighted a trend which threatens the future of our industry as a
clear mirror of the nation.

My own career started when, as a
15-year-old schoolboy, I wrote to the Romford Times to complain that
its coverage of cycle racing stank and I could do better. Within six
months I had five local newspaper columns running each week, worked as
Saturday boy (properly paid) on a cycling mag, and was stringing for
the nationals.

This brought me in a handsome £12 a week in freelance fees, which was double what I got from my first fulltime job in the City.

At
a time when the NUJ had real teeth, it was “do a man’s job, get a man’s
money”. I got the work not because I was cheap labour but because my
editors thought I was right for the task.

When I reached Fleet
Street it was not unusual on editorial floors to find Old Etonians,
middle-class grammar school lads and secondary modern kids from council
estates working together.

Many of the latter were kids with no
exam qualifications but who started off in the post room or as copy
boys then demonstrated a flair for the language and a good nose for a
story. Some went on to edit national publications.

In an age when
university grants are gone, working class kids now have little chance
of entering our profession while, having remortgaged the house to put
their children through further education, middle-class parents are
effectively paying for their offspring to work for unscrupulous
employers – who, sadly, include some of our biggest and most respected
publishing houses.

These may be making record profits but they’re
doing it by slashing costs and therefore quality to the bone, which
causes continuing sales slumps, and we know what lies at the end of
that road.

Roger St Pierre St Pierre Editorial Service

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