Power of the pen

Power of the pen

Gerald Kaufman

The two things I always wanted to be were a journalist and a member of parliament. I have to admit that the kind of journalist I wanted to be was not a political correspondent but a film critic. When I was a schoolboy I used to write out in careful printed lettering – no computers then – my own newspaper, with film reviews a prominent feature. Later in life I did become a film critic, over a number of years and for several publications, but always as a freelance. My enthusiasm for politics meant, however, that, as a freelance, I also wrote political stories and features. Under the editorship of Bob Edwards at Tribune, I used frequently to write political material of so inflammatory a nature that my parents became worried I might be arrested. When I left university, I applied for lots of journalistic jobs but never got them. My first job was, in fact, political, as assistant general secretary of the Fabian Society. Through my contacts there with Dick Crossman, I got my first job as a staff journalist, researching material for Crossman’s twice-weekly column for the Daily Mirror. I worked under the greatest popular journalists there have ever been, Hugh Cudlipp and Sydney Jacobson, and learned my craft from them. I graduated to political reporting, the writing of political features, and, eventually, leaderwriting. I then was invited to become political correspondent of the New Statesman, in the days when the NS was a huge influence in left-wing political discussion. So I became a proper political journalist (while continuing to write film criticism on the side).

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