Amol Rajan: I'm hacked off by being a hack with a hacking cough

IMHO

Share
Related Topics

In the age of instant news, history is easily forgotten.

Those of us paid to keep up with Twitter, news feeds, and live blogs are thus deprived of the chance to read both about grand events long ago, and the lives of those who experienced them.

Three years ago, I decided upon a strategy to counter this difficulty. The first thing I now read in the papers each morning is the Obituaries section of The Independent. That newspaper has long been established as the producer of the best obituaries in Fleet Street, but under the quizzical and erudite editorship of Chris Maume has pulled even further away from its rivals. For example, this week he produced one of the finest sentences I have ever seen in print.

Under each obituary is a sub-headline – sometimes called the H2 or standfirst – which pithily describes the contribution of the deceased to history. I have often thought writing this sub-headline one of the heaviest burdens a journalist can have, much heavier than writing a front-page headline, for instance, because the dead cannot answer back.

Chris and his ilk are tasked with defining how people are remembered. And this week, above a splendid picture of Francis King wearing a panama, his obituary declared: "Novelist and man of letters who specialised in depicting people thrown together but longing to break free".

Has Fleet Street ever produced a more charming and thoughtful sentence of praise? Perhaps not. The better question is: what would yours be? I have always been enamoured of how VR Krishna Iyer, one of India's most senior judges, described K Kamaraj, the great Tamil reformer, "a common man's man with uncommon common sense". I know that's fabulously vain, but then I am a hack at heart.

***

Hacking latest: there's not a dry cough in sight. As explosives shake the very foundations of Rupert Murdoch's business, and David Cameron is enveloped in the debris, I am detained by the much more significant issue of variants of cough. I thought there were only two: chesty and dry (whooping being a separate, more serious problem with the real name Pertussis). Imagine my surprise, then, to hear not one or two but six people this week refer to their "hacking cough". I had never heard the phrase. Is this an abuse of language, or am I just antediluvian? More crucially, have I a right to be hacked off about it?

***

This, I suppose, is the week of all weeks to confess that I have an irrepressible crush on Rebekah Brooks. I can trace its origins very precisely. In April last year, I found myself approaching the Foreign Desk about some trivial matter. A flash of light momentarily blinded me, and when I came to I deciphered in the blur the most extraordinary, flame-haired vixen I have ever seen, hovercrafting towards me. Her voice was exquisitely mellifluous. She was in our office with James Murdoch, to upbraid our Editor for having the temerity to question Rupert Murdoch's power.

Alas, her good fortune in having sexy hair has this week helped to maintain her presence on the front pages, because red comes out so well in colour photos. And knowing what we now know about her, while thinking of hundreds of journalists jobless on Monday, I'm convinced Murdoch has ditched the wrong red-top.

***

I was pleased to see Chris Huhne and his partner, Carina Trimingham, at a party on Wednesday night. For all the fuss over his driving record, he is easily one of the most impressive MPs around. And, in the words of Nick Clegg, say what you like about Huhne, but no politician is better at getting his points across.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Polish minister Rafal Trazaskowski (second from right)  

Poland is open to dialogue but EU benefits restrictions are illegal and unfair

Rafal Trzaskowski
The report will embarrass the Home Secretary, Theresa May  

Surprise, surprise: tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have 'dropped off' the Home Office’s radar

Nigel Farage
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas