Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Spoiler

My holiday reading included Annalena McAfee's novel, The Spoiler. Set in 1997, the book follows young reporter Tamara Sim as she profiles the much-feted aging war correspondent Honor Tait in the hope of landing a staff job on a national newspaper. A satire on what used to be called Fleet Street, the book includes very funny descriptions of life on both broadsheets and tabloids, as well as exposing all the backstabbing, lying and cheating that goes on. 

Having said that, students of journalism may well want to read it in the hope of picking up some tips - particularly on how/how not to carry out an interview. Also, a recurring theme throughout the book is how the media is on the cusp of technological revolutions - and the resistance of many of the characters to the internet shows just how far we have come over the past 15 years. 

That includes the library. McAfee's description of the old cuttings collection is almost spot on:
'the busiest department in the building, a maze of tightly packed, floor-to-ceiling metal shelves crammed with hanging files containing envelopes of photographs and wads of cuttings on everyone who had ever appeared in a newspaper'.
And as a senior editor explains its purpose to Tamara, 
'Here is the compost...which nourishes our freshest bloom; the poop behind the scoop. '
Very good. One minor quibble though is the use of 'the Morgue' as a name for the newspaper library. Perfectly fine for a North American archive but in Britain it's nearly always 'cuts' or just 'the library'. Of course this is something that any self-respecting fact-checker would have spotted...