23 May 2012

Dismal Hacks

James Runciman, Side Lights (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1893), pp. 25-6:
As for the dismal hacks who sometimes call themselves journalists, I cannot grow angry with them; but they do test the patience of the most stolid of men. To call them writers -- écrivains -- would be worse than flattery; they are paper-stainers, and every fresh dribble of their incompetence shows how utterly written out they are. Let them have a noble action to describe, or let them have a world-shaking event given them as subject for comment, the same deadly mechanical dulness marks the description and the article. Look at an article by Forbes or McGahan or Burleigh -- an article wherein the words seem alive -- and then run over a doleful production of some complacent hack, and the astounding range that divides the zenith of journalism from the nadir may at once be seen. The poor hack has all his little bundle of phrases tied up ready to his hand; but he has no brain left, and he cannot rearrange his verbal stock-in-trade in fresh and vivid combinations. The old, old sentences trickle out in the old, old way.