They came from miles around, their hopes as high as the sun in the noontime August sky, with androgynous skinny jeans tucked into fashionably tatty Ugg boots and nondescript hued fringes combed meticulously over their left eyes to create just the right air of nonchalance. Their faded kafiyas had seen better days; testimony of their status as soon to be third year journalism students at indistinctive British universities, and an unwritten reference to their commitment to the right kind of political activism. This universally adopted uniform had a purpose; it was contrived to send a message of common ideological ground to other like thinkers, but also it aspired to make them look as though they had always belonged where they now stood – by the water cooler in the reception area of the plush Guardian offices.
The subdued insect-like hum of their chatter fell suddenly silent as the shiny elevator doors opened and out stepped the man they all instantly recognised. A communal gasp of awe fell upon them as each one registered the fact that this near-religious experience was actually happening to them. Alan Rusbridger had descended from his spacious office on high to speak to them. How impressed their Facebook friends would be.
Awe soon turned to apprehension as they realised that the two women standing at a suitable distance behind Rusbridger were not in fact his personal Ghadafi-style body guards as first assumed, but none other than Katherine Viner and Georgina Henry. Would they be sitting in on the interviews for the glittering prize of a summer Guardian work experience internship? Kafiyas were flipped expertly into position, cardigan sleeves adjusted to precisely the right height by the boys and necklines to exactly the right depth by the girls. I-pods were swiftly stuffed into ethnically-themed man bags bearing ‘Free Palestine’ badges and I-phones struck silent, despite the near-uncontrollable urge to Tweet this awesome moment for posterity.
The selection process was long and charged with emotion, but at its end only four hopefuls remained. Rusbridger leaned back in his opulent executive chair, pushed his glasses down his nose and glared ominously at the remaining candidates.
“There is, as you know, only one internship available. The decision will be made on the basis of your next task. You will, here and now, write the editorial for next Monday’s Guardian.”
Silence enveloped the enormous (but of course very tastefully decorated) boardroom. After what seemed like an eternity a trembling voice cut through the heavy stillness.
“But Mr. Rusbridger, sir…”
“Erm, don’t you write the editorials sir? I mean you are, like, the editor…”
Rusbridger sat upright with alarming swiftness, his eyes piercing the twenty feet of space to the other side of the milky glass boardroom table where Melinda now tried to make herself as small as possible in the white faux leather chair.
“Don’t be ridiculous girl! For a measly half million a year you think I’m going to write? What do they teach you people at university these days?”
“So who does write the editorials, sir?”
“Well there was what’s his name from the canteen; he used to have plenty of time until he got head-hunted by the Morning Star. The night cleaner helps out of course, but now she’s resigned to go and run a website. Socialist Trinity or something…Now get on with it! I haven’t got all day.”
“Actually you do” piped up Georgina. “There’s that late lunch with those cool guys from the Popular Resistance whatsit, but they don’t drink so it should be over quite early.”
“And you still don’t get why you were moved to Culture, do you?” hissed Rusbridger as he stormed out of the boardroom, the tastefully flocked cerise doors swinging violently after him.
Three hours later the hopefuls nervously awaited their fate, tiny beads of sweat defiantly appearing on their upper lips as Rusbridger scanned their offerings at the other end of the table.
“Melinda: I should have known from the beginning that your attitude is problematic. Sri Lankan war inquiry indeed. Who gives a damn about that?”
“Justin: are you sure this is the right profession for you? You’re not going to get very far in this game with such sentimental neo-con drivel about the feelings of reactionary Americans demonstrating against a Mosque.”
“Amanda: If you want to write from a feminist perspective you’ll have to get up to speed with the current trends. This isn’t Spare Rib, you know! Try reading Kath Viner or Ruth Sherlock. You won’t catch them wasting time on some Iranian woman just because she’s been sentenced to death by stoning.”
“Adrian: now you have obviously done your homework and got up to speed with our style. Readers don’t want to have to cope with anything too challenging on their morning commute. They need a tried and trusted formula; something with feel good factor. Vanunu – brilliant choice! Absolutely foolproof. All the right elements; lone opposer of Israeli oppression, nukes, hero of the unwashed masses, justice. This will work – it always has done before. Kath – get it rolling.”
“Now Adrian, before you start your internship tomorrow I think we should have a word about your style. If you’re going to write about the Middle East, you could do a lot worse than to take a leaf out of Harriet Sherwood’s book. What we call the Orla Guerin formula. For example you could start your next editorial something along the lines of “They came from miles around, their hopes as high as the sun in the noontime August sky…..”