Could Fergie hack it as a jobbing journo?

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I've yet to meet a cub reporter who picks up pounds 200,000 for grinding out a piece while the ink on his press card is still wet. But then Fergie, Duchess of York, probably hasn't got round to joining the National Union of Journalists.

Anyway with the barrow-load of dosh Paris Match handed over for her trenchant article on the fashion designer John Galliano, it's unlikely that she sees the need to become part of the union. There are around 8,000 of us freelance journalists beavering away at the trade and the number of newspapers is ever-shrinking.

Clearly the trick today is to get modern, take a leaf out of Fergie's chintzy manual, and go for a biggie. Which reminds me of an encounter with the off-the-wall Mr Galliano some years ago. He was dining at a swish hotel in the mountains of West Wales overlooking Cardigan Bay and he was intent on smoking between courses, despite the fact that the hotel very politely urges guests not to. It is the kind of place that has had the likes of Jackie Onassis and Edward Kennedy dining there.

With great courtesy, one of the hotel's owners pointed to the no-smoking request. Galliano simmered, scowled and went into the "Don't you know who I am?" routine. Eventually politeness won the day in a scene from the kind of behind-the-catwalk dramas described in paperbacks bought by frustrated travellers at Gatwick airport. I don't know if the smoker ever returned but I do know that other guests were impressed by the hotel.

I wonder how the Duchess would have reported the contretemps. Come to that, what would all 1997's eager young media studies students make of it? As with the Duchess, there's an unreal air about journalists manques whose burning ambition is to become another Anna Ford or Peter Sissons. Autocue reading may not be an optional extra for long.

A common denominator connects Fergie to today's new wave of scribes, whose infatuation with a technology we were told would allow hundreds of new titles to flourish is matched by an undying devotion to money-spinning - as exemplified by the hack with a title gained through marriage to the Queen's third offspring.

As us old hands say, "We supply what's asked for but the editor's decision is final." Ah well, it's time to clean the typewriter keys.

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