Of slippery slopes and greasy poles

Of the many obituaries of Christopher Hitchens published today, few are worth reading. With some of them, my impression is of copy hastily hacked up long ago, with the scribes muttering over their afterwork pints, ‘For God’s sake, Hitchens, just die already, or my editor will lose interest and bin the piece I spent all of 30 minutes putting together.’

The BBC’s unbylined effort is one such example of throwaway copy, but it is notable for the following gem of dry journalistic wit…

“Drinking, arguing and a third-class degree were the stepping stones to a career in journalism…”

Christopher Hitchens may never have worked as a Fleet Street reporter, but still he was the archetypal Lunchtime O’Booze of Private Eye infamy. As for third-class degrees, I thought that school teaching was the preferred profession of such unfortunates. After all, I have a PhD in physics, and look at my wretched condition!

Stroppiness and hard living were once hallmarks of the journalistic trade, and Christopher Hitchens was one of the last representatives of the ancien régime. But medialand has changed dramatically in recent times, and the stepping stones into journalism are now a first-class arts or humanities degree from an Oxbridge college or one of the better red-brick universities, a series of unpaid internships, an anodyne demeanour, and pushy middle-class parents with deep pockets.