Caitlin Moran, columnist, writer and wielder of extraordinary hair, has a new book out. Last night, she did an interview at the Bloomsbury Theatre last night to launch it, and as Friday tends to be my day of tedious filling things in and building things admin, I’ve been listening to the video recording.
Among the many funny and endearing bits about work, virginity and Chris Brown (not endearing), there was a particularly passionate, eloquent reasoning as to why Moran does not work for the guardian, and instead, has been at The Times for 20 years. More importantly, it is also a reasoning as to why the arts and journalism need to safeguard its future, and that of those people ahead.
As a long-standing Times reader and someone who works there, this sums up my feelings pretty well too. I’ve typed it out in case you don’t have a handy video player.
Question: Hello. I’d like to know why you still write for The Times when the guardian is clearly your spiritual home?
*gales of mirth and applause from audience*
“I know it seems that simple, but first of all, I have amazing loyalty to The Times because they took me on when I was 18, and it was literally cheese counter or prostitute. Like, I faxed them a column and they rang me the next day and said, “We will give you a column.” I just think that’s amazing. The amount of faith that they put in me over the years, the promotions they’ve given me, they’ve just been really lovely. I am so loyal to them I would never leave.
“Secondly, I am proud of that paper. When the whole hacking thing went on, there was one instance where The Times had done hacking, and it was a rogue journalist, who was just there on the news desk who had done it on his own. James Harding is the gentleman of Fleet Street, and he looks like Daniel Craig when he’s playing James Bond. I think it’s very important to have a boss you fancy a bit, it’s an enormous incentive when you’re over deadline.
“And thirdly I believe in the paywall. If you talk to people in the media, everybody wants to know what’s going to work to make money from newspapers. Because at the moment nearly every newspaper is losing money apart from the Daily Mail, and no-one wants that to be the only newspaper. And it’s funny, because the Daily Mail earns money by trolling their readers by posting pictures of Kim Kardsashian’s arse with “FAT OR WHAT?” next to it to provoke them into a rage, it’s just a hateful newspaper.
“So, the paywall. If you look at all the things that became free when we went on line – music became free, music industry is now decimated, 40% drop in revenue since 1999. All the magazines – the circulation dropped, magazines go out of business left right and centre. Melody Maker’s closed, The Face, circulation plummeted since it went free online.
“But the only people who are supposed to work for free, or giving their stuff away, are artists. It’s what the working classes used to do: you’d form a band, become a journalist, you’d work your way up through the style press, that’s how you’d get a fix in the media and made your way in the world if you were working class and didn’t have any qualifications.
“Everything else on the internet not for free. Topshop: not giving stuff away for free. Halfords: not giving stuff away for free. Shops and commerce and business: still charging you; the only things that are supposed to be given away for free are things that required any degree of artistry or free speech. Now you’ve got to the point where the only way you can get a job in the media is by working free as an intern which makes it again the privilege of the middle classes. Working class people can’t afford to form bands; they can’t afford to go and be journalists and try their arm working on the music press. You download this stuff for free, but you actually eat the culture that your children want to take part in.
“I love the guardian, I’ve got many friends there, they’re always lovely to me, I always want there to be a guardian, but I always want there to be a Times as well, and I just think the principle of paying for things, is one that’s fairly well-established as working quite well. The essential logic of things being free, no-one’s explained to me how that’s going to work, and the answer is, it doesn’t work. Everything’s going out of business, everyone’s losing money hand over fist, everything’s disappearing.”
CM: “And let’s face it, Charlie Brooker’s on the guardian, I’m not going to go in and start battling for ROFLs. It would be like Godzilla VS Mothra. He can have the guardian, I can have The Times.”