I’ve worked as a hack since 1974, which makes it 36 years man and boy, and I have met and worked with quite a few other hacks (a disproportionate number of whom, incidentally, were called ‘Andy’, but that is for another time). And my considered opinion is this: hacks are self-centred, obstreperous, selfish, self-regarding fuckwits who are never quite as bright, cultured or well-informed as they like to think they are. They might, individually be pleasant and good company — indeed, I know several who brush their teeth quite regularly— but when they are not themselves but are hacks, they become strangely quite insufferably, although I have also come across — and work with at least one — some definite exceptions to that rule.
There is something about the job which invariably brings out the worst in hacks. This is not something I have decided upon of late, but it has been my opinion for many years. The reason I am letting off steam here is because of something someone said earlier on, which typifies the boneheaded, uncooperative nature of so many of them.
At the moment, there is chaos throughout Europe because ash from a volcano on Iceland is being blown all over the Continent and almost all commercial flights have been grounded. Our letters editor, a guy called Andy Simpson, has spent the past week with his daughters in Turkey. This morning I was told that he was stuck there, and as I get on well with him, I thought I might ring his mobile on the off-chance he would answer and could tell us when he might be back. ‘Don’t do that,’ said a female colleague, ‘it’s up to him to ring us and tell us.’
Now, I really cannot see the point of taking a stand on the issue. But she was adamant.
Another example: a few weeks ago, I agreed to do some extra work at home (on a self-employed freelance basis so I can claim expenses) organising the puzzle pages. Since we have move over to a new page layout system (from Quark Xpress on Mac to Atex and Indesign on PCs) there was chaos for a few weeks with everyone refusing to set up the puzzle pages. I happened to mention to the managing editor that it was no great deal and he asked wether I would be prepared to do it. Well, as I had been doing it four days a week ever since no one else was doing it, I decided I might as well be paid for it. A bonus that appeals to the geek in me in that I can log into the system at work from home in North Cornwall 240 miles away.
Anyway, as I deal with the puzzle pages daily four days a week, I was doing a little extra work to lighten my load, but doing so was not part of the agreement. That was a big mistake, because now everyone else on the desk expects me to do it. To put it bluntly, they want their arses wiped on the hour, every hour. Bloody hacks. My advice to everyone has always been: if you are approached by a reporter about anything, turn around and walk smartly away in the opposite direction. What they don’t get wrong, they make up, and what they don’t make up they get wrong. They are complete and utter pillocks.