We all know that there are important differences between English and American as they are spoke. One that\’s rather amused me was a time (as a result of something I wrote for over there) I was called a hack.
Over there it\’s very definitely an insult, one who writes not just to order, but to an ideological order. One who spins the facts and arguments to their master\’s bidding, purely for money. When the editor of the piece alerted me to the insult I\’d been offered I simply smiled.
For over here it\’s become a term of approbation. Yes, one who writes to order, but one who is in fact a professional newspaperman. One who can write on any (or at least most) subjects and turn in a decent piece on time.
Lord Deedes, known to all as Bill, died in August aged 94. As Editor of The Daily Telegraph from 1974 to 1985, and a Cabinet minister under Harold Macmillan and Sir Alec Douglas-Home, he made the most successful jump from politics to newspapers. But Richard Ingrams, former Editor of Private Eye, who featured the fictitious “Dear Bill” letters in the magazine, said: “[Bill] would like to be remembered as a newspaper reporter, not anyone grand. He was what I would call a hack, and he was proud to be that.”
Lord Deedes’s journalistic career spanned eight decades, from cub reporter on the Morning Post to his last column for the Telegraph this summer. He was in Abyssinia in 1935, covered the abdication of Edward VIII and travelled with Diana, Princess of Wales, in her campaign to rid the world of landmines.
When I first had a book review published in The Telegraph one Observer journalist emailed to say that "we\’ll make a hack of you yet".
I\’ll admit that I flirted with hackery in the American sense and then drew back. I\’ll also admit to aspiring to hackery in the English sense, but I\’ve a long, long way to go yet.