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Billy Bragg's Brave New England

Mark Sinker, The Observer, 27 November 1988

2005 comment: Neil Spencer didn’t rate me or want to use me, according to Jon Savage – who told him (Sav told me) not to be so silly. But Neil’s instincts were probably right, at least as regards workable future relationship with The Observer. Semi-literate Teenage Live Eds on E at the Inkies: I knew how to cut that professional world some slack and get plenty in return. The hopelessly compromised and crappy reaches of cultural journalism in the left-lib broadsheets? Forget it. Despite the presence nearby of Sav and S.Frith – who did what they could to help – The Observer was an awful place to try and work for at this time. This piece is OK – the Jools Holland piece (cf) was better – but anything tried in these zones had a duty to be specifically combative in respect of the segmentation of broadsheet media: it should have been writing that – if refused space on the op-ed page (or indeed the FRONT page) – merely made the editors-in-chief in question look like clowns. The random-assignment aspect of working journalism I do miss, where you stretch yourself trying to negotiate the unexpected: here the journey across the North of England with the Bragg operation, which was beguiling and instructive; and meeting Peter Jenner was one of those clarifying moments, also. Richard Cook rescued me from another desperate few years of this.

Total word count of piece: 1391

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