Osborne at the Standard: a slap in the face for young journalists everywhere

Kirstie Sutherland /
Mar 20, 2017 / Opinion

George Osborne, has now been named as the new editor-in-chief of the Evening Standard.

No, I’m not having you on. A man who was rejected from The Times’ graduate trainee scheme, who has never properly worked as a journalist and therefore has no experience, will be editing the largest daily newspaper in London from May this year. I wish I was making it up.

Osborne’s appointment has been met with, unsurprisingly, a huge backlash. Accepting this role means that the man now has six jobs, including acting as a senior adviser at Blackrock, chairman at the Northern Powerhouse project, public speaker for Washington Speaker Bureau, as well as stating he will continue to serve as an MP for Tatton, Cheshire. Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds like an awful lot on the plate of someone who will be soon be managing a huge team of journalists on the daily, and the latter of his roles has come severely under fire. How the hell is he going to be able to juggle the stresses of editing a daily of the Standard’s stature when he also has a duty to his constituents? The answer: he won’t.

While there has been previous precedent for politicians working as journalists and/or editors, most notably Boris Johnson editing The Spectator from 1999 to 2005 and previously working as a columnist for The Daily Telegraph, at least the bumbling buffoon had some kind of experience. Osborne’s new job is a slap in the face for journalists out there right now grafting hard to gain experience and make a name for themselves. It sets a new precedent of status determining the job you wind up with. Well, I guess he isn’t the first in that respect actually. I mean, hey, who needs a decent degree and experience when my friend, the owner of the paper, can give me the top job? I could write a very long list of people just my age alone (the tender old age of 21) who have more experience, by-lines and weeks, months, years slogged at a news desk than Osborne has in his little finger.

So what does this mean for journalism? Of course, his several different job titles reflect a blindingly obvious conflict of interest. How can he possibly run a newspaper, a newspaper with close Conservative ties and an owner who has ruined the reputation of the once respectable The Independent, in a fair way that “gives a voice to all Londoners” as he has stated? How can he possibly juggle the workload, making sure that the Standard is of the highest quality whilst also working hard for his constituents, attending all his meetings, writing all those speeches and still manage to get it all done effectively? He can’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually succumbs to the pressure, both of the job and from a hell of a lot of critics, and gives up his job to trigger a Tatton by-election. It’s the fairest thing to do in a situation that is terribly unfair within the journalism world and on the constituents that voted for him in the first place.

Just today, everyone’s favourite (groan) Tony Blair, came out and said that Osborne’s new editorial position “should make politics more interesting”. The thing is, Tony, that we don’t need “interesting” politics in the current climate – I think it’s safe to say with Trump and Brexit, we’ve had enough of that in recent years. What we really need is stability, reassurance, prosperity and positivity, and with the news today that Theresa May will be triggering Article 50 in just nine days’ time, it’s looking like a long while before we reach that.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that George Osborne being named editor of the Evening Standard is yet another preposterous piece of news in this year’s shit storm, something that just makes you want to throw your phone away and not look at another scathing tweet or Guardian opinion piece for a week or two. His appointment is like Donald Trump and his hideous mop becoming the new face of L’Oreal (he’s seriously not worth it, folks), Theresa May being commissioned by Louboutin to design her own line of kitten heels or for David Cameron to start promoting Richmond sausages. It doesn’t make a jot of sense.

At least now with this announcement, journalists – particularly student journos – know where they stand: on a small piece of ice that’s rapidly melting as Osborne waves at you from the fiery pits of his new, comfy London office. Good luck to us all, eh? Sounds like we’re going to need it.

Get Volume #17 here.

Words by Kirstie Sutherland

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