You may already have seen the first (and, now, last) part of Max’s travel blog for the Guardian.
Basically, a 19-year-old boy doing a gap year is about to travel to India and Thailand. He’s going to write a blog about it.
Good for him. Thousands of kids his age do just that.
Here’s where it all goes pear-shaped:
Somehow, someway, the Guardian commissions him to put his blog on their website. And a comment-storm arises criticising Max, the media in general, and the Guardian specifically for writing and publishing this.
The writing is, to put it kindly, not the best travel writing ever. But pretty much none of the thousands of other “Here I am in Thailand, wow,” blogs are either.
So, why exactly was Max picked from the crowd to a featured spot on a national newspaper?
It doesn’t take much research on the Internet to find that Max’s dad is, funnily enough, a travel writer. And it’s not a big leap to suspect that nepotism may have played a part.
Whether it did or didn’t is actually irrelevant. The problem here is that no-one at the Guardian thought it might be a problem.
The Guardian’s travel editor, Andy Pietrasik, responded (but, notably, didn’t apologise), saying basically “Yes, he’s not a very good writer, but I thought it was interesting that a 19-year-old was writing for Skins. And I didn’t edit his writing.”
Max’s writing is trite. That’s not an offense in and of itself. My writing here is often trite. I keep a blog, don’t I? Who the fuck wants to read my bizarre witterings?
The fact is that it doesn’t matter in my case, because readership of this blog is self-selecting.
Now, if a respected newspaper such as the Guardian had promoted me as an exciting new talent, who happened to live in London, and I happened to come from a nice middle-class family, and my father happened to be a respected travel journalist, and my first piece happened to be badly written, dull, and about a small well-off subset of London society, and no-one at the Guardian thought that people might wonder why the hell I’d been commissioned then that’s a different story entirely.
So. Max’s blog becomes a minor Internet sensation, and he’s wisely decided to not write any more. Good.
But then we have this story from the Observer, in which we find that Max’s dad was surprised by the outpouring of vitriol. But I believe that his quote from which the title of this article is taken proves that he, too, really hasn’t thought this through.
It’s not a crime to write badly, to be white, to be male, to be middle-class, to live in London, or to have contacts at the Royal Court, Channel 4, and the Guardian.
This is not about Max. It’s not his fault, and I wish him well on his trip.
This is about the editors at the Guardian who damn well should have known better.