Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Osborne and the Deadline

I have nothing to blog about. I'm embarrassed about the Osborne affair because it is now becoming apparent that I missed the story. Not only, when in Corfu, did I eat at the offending Taverna, I also watched the Deripaska yacht bobbing about near the Rothschild peninsula. Yep, I missed it. This is depressing but not as depressing as the realisation that all this means we are back in the world of Mandelsonian/Rovian politics. I shall cheer myself up with thoughts of Henry Twynam, journalism student and tree surgeon He emailed me asking for help with an article on The Deadline he was writing. I replied:
'The deadline saves my life. It is the great advantage the journalist has over the creative writer. It means he must deliver and, once he has delivered, it is, more or less, all over. The greatest moments of my career have been when I made a tight deadline - 3000 words on Diana's funeral in 80 minutes sticks in the mind. Or, once, turning a 1000 page government report in a regional paper splash in half a hour. Deadlines should be your friend, they are a gateway to (temporary) freedom. Editors lie about deadlines to make you deliver early. Do not challenge their lies, deliver. Deadlines order your material and your work. Only so much can be done in the time given, this determines what you do and how you do it. Actually, they should be called livelines, they are so life-enhancing. That way we can reserve 'deadline' for the big one - otherwise known as the flatline.'


  1. Another oligarch-related missed opportunity. Was travelling from London out to deepest Siberia with Khodorkovsky's family to see the old boy in the gulag, and had a couple of days to kill in Moscow before my flight. The Indy suggested I find another story while I was there.

    I was staying with a very old woman in her flat in the centre of town. She lived, she told me, right round the corner from that famous journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Indeed, she even showed me her apartment block. But for some reason, probably my lack of translator at this staged, I didn't pop my head in her door. Instead, I chose instead to interview the staff of a Moscow English-language paper called The Exile, who had caused Putin some minor irritation some weeks earlier. It made 1000 words in the Independent media section. A month later, Politkovskaya was shot dead in that same flat, and an interview with her - given well before I was in Moscow to a Russian journalist - was syndicated around the world as "her final words".

    Can't help thinking I missed the boat there.

  2. Not sure if your mates at the Sunday times where on a deadline when they came up with the immortal headline 'Axis of Diesel',Like me they get inspiration at the end of a glass.

    Axis of Diesel forced to change its ways by plummeting oil price


  3. I used to find deadlines (or delivery promises in the real world) a source of constant amusement, or at least dreaming up excuses as to why they had not been met. Therein lies true inventiveness.
    Anyhoo, DON'T UPSET MANDY, he'll belt you with his handbag, laden with Roubles.

  4. i agree a million percent with your comment on the livelines that are deadlines. it's why i'm so hampered writing fiction -- no one is paying me to do it, or telling me when I have to get it in. no whip cracking so I, stubborn mule that i am, barely move.

    However, i have two deadlines from journals animating me right now. In fact, I should not be writing this, but writing for one of them. It's a thrill to steal time, though I know I might pay later. This mule is suddenly kicking up her hooves, alive!

  5. I crave deadlines and struggle when I don't have somebody asking me for finished work. I really should pay somebody to hound me. I'd be much more productive that way.

  6. One Christmas Eve I was awake to get a glass of water and on my way back to bed I met a strange sooty figure with a fluffy white beard falling over a red robe... I was only three but I do feel I had a potential scoop there. Also Elvis worked at our chippy till 2006....

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