Monday, December 10, 2007

50 is the new 65

I've just read a piece about the new editor of The Times, James Harding. He's 38. Will Lewis, the editor of the Daily Telegraph is also 38. George Osborne is 36. David Cameron is 40.

At the age of 45, perhaps I should be considering retirement! It's quite a thought to think that in the political and media world 45 is an age at which you sometimes think to yourself that you are a bit past it. The thing is, I don't feel any different to how I did when I was 30 - it's just that I have learned a hell of a lot in the intervening 15 years. Hopefully, that experience informs my decisions and means I make fewer bad ones. Hopefully.

But if I sometimes think that 45 is beyond a sell by date, I can hardly imagine what I will be thinking in 5 or 10 years time. Society is definitely becoming ever more youth oriented, and in some ways you can see why. Newsreaders are rarely over 40. Our celebrity obsessed media derides anyone who hasn't got the 'body beautiful' or has a few grey hairs and wrinkles. The BBC puts out to grass anyone who doesn't fit in which its 'right on' image. It's madness.

What we are doing is ignoring a huge group of talented people who have a lot still to give. I have written before about the fact that all political parties should be positively embracing candidates who are in their fifties, yet none of them considers it an issue they should even be thinking about. Newspapers also want ever younger writers and journalists - people who demonstate hunger and ruthlessness, rather than experience and judgement.

I find it profoundly depressing that society now judges people over the age of 50 as a group who by and large have little to contribute any longer. And it's not just because I'm only five years off that age myself! Fifty seems to be the new sixty five!

74 comments:

Anonymous said...

The emphasis on youth does mean there are investment opportunities in hair dye. Has anyone noticed that nearly every man over 30 who appears before a camera now has orange hair?

Anonymous said...

Re: BBC newsreaders. I think your point maybe only applies to women. They certainly treated Kate Adie very poorly. Huw Edwards is 46. George Alagiah is 52. Jeremy Paxman is 57. Gavin Esler is 54. Nicholas Owen is 60. Dermot Murnaghan is 50. Bill Turnball ?? David Frost go to 67 or 65 before leaving.

Tom FD said...

I'm 23 and I'm panic-stricken; it's all over for me, I fear...

Machiavelli's Understudy said...

I think that there are a lot more old people looking after themselves better now- I mean, I've seen people in their 50s who look at least a decade younger, and there are a few well in to their 60s who don't look their age.

Compare that to my grandparents when they were in their 60s and they actually looked old.

So I think it's evened out a little- even though 'professionals' might be getting younger, old people aren't looking quite as old.

Chris Paul said...

Oh do stop this self pitying drivel Iain. You've still got plenty of youthful foolishness in you and don't let anyone tell you anything different. And anonymous 11:04 has a good list of ageing newsreaders to bust your blag.

Patrick said...

whinge whinge whinge, thats all you oldies do isn't it?

M. Hristov said...

And we wonder why everything seems a mess today. I am very lucky in being one of the few over 40s who has no grey hairs at all. It is very useful indeed but I think that my relatively juvenile appearance would have been a problem 100 years ago not an asset.

M. Hristov said...

And we wonder why everything seems a mess today. I am very lucky in being one of the few over 40s who has no grey hairs at all. It is very useful indeed but I think that my relatively juvenile appearance would have been a problem 100 years ago not an asset.

Newmania said...

Would it be alright with you if I popped outside and killed myself Iain ...decent of you...bye

(44)

i spy strangers said...

As a 53 year-old, I think you're talking (to use one of your favourite words) cojones, Iain.

It really does vary a great deal from individual to individual. My outlook is little changed from when I was 45. I do still feel valued professionally and new prospects are continually opening up.

That said, the only time recently when I realised I was getting a bit 'long in the tooth' was when I applied to go on the Approved List!

bj said...

Kay Burley's the only national female TV broadcaster I can think of who is over 40. Lyse Doucet (50 next year) is on BBC World regularly, too.

But you simply don't get on the telly unless you look the part. That applies to men, too. There are quite a few male BBC journalists who only do radio, or who never appear in vision.

They're usually the ones who are less vain.

HF said...

The new Editor of the Times is clearly too inexperienced to recognise rubbish when it is written. The two articles by Riddell in tomorrow's Times make elementary errors in comparing polls from different companies.

If the Editor was up to anything he would stamp down on Riddell's lazy spin doctored articles and take the Times back to when it used to be a reliable paper.

34 Year Old Journalist said...

"Newspapers also want ever younger writers and journalists - people who demonstate hunger and ruthlessness, rather than experience and judgement."

Well Iain, you'll soon have your own trainset/magazine. I trust you'll be asking some experienced people to write for it! Say, 34 or over...

hv said...

Iain are you only 45? Looking at your photograph I think you're doing a David Abrahams

dehautenbas said...

Is the age of the Telegraph's editor one of the reasons that it's no longer worth buying?

tapestry said...

Hit 50 and go and live abroad.

Age is respected and valued in other parts of the world. You can have servants to do all your chores, drive your car if you need one, sail your boat if you like boats, and bring you your drinks as you relax by the pool - all for a lot less than it costs to struggle on in Britain, where you are paying ludicrously high taxes and being regulated from Brussels, while the country loses its identity and its value.

With the internet you don't need to leave in many ways. You can still blog and be wired in, run businesses in the UK and chat to family and friends - send and watch each other on youtube, yahoo, messenger, skype and so on - all for free.

Those winters get longer and harder as life goes on. You don't need to be there. In fact Brits abroad are a lot more fun - as they left before the rot set in, and still laugh at things which have been censored back at home.

But Iain cannot leave. We need him to keep us who've gone, in touch with things back home. It's nice because he still seems o believe that good might come out of politics despite all the evidence that the place is lost.

Get Britain out of the EU and many like me would think of coming back. Meanwhile being older is easier where it's warmer, slower, cheaper and funnier.

Phil Taylor said...

Iain,

One thing is true is that too many journalists are too young. It means that on average they look at the world a certain way and are unable to analyse it properly. For instance, a mortgage, some children and a few years paying taxes gives you a very different perspective to someone who simply pays the rent and parties.

For every youthful voice asking why do we do things this way, why doesn't the state do more, can we solve this with, etc we need an alternative voice, typically from an older person, that says leave well enough alone, let people make their own choices, look out for unintended consequences, etc.

Older journalists may well want paying more and may not be so willing to do their bosses' bidding but their papers need their perspective.

The Hitch said...

brad pitt and george clooney?
44 and 48
tom cruise 44(or is that four feet four ?)
As to this new editor of the time pound to a penny he will sacked in 12 months.
A slow burn is better than a quick flash.

canvas said...

iain, It's your right wing views that date you! LoL

:)

James said...

Iain, I agree that there is a tendency to seek out younger people. This to my mind seems ridiculous in a society with an ageing population to be obsessed with the smallest part thereof. I totally agree with your point about parliamentary candidates, I wouldn't vote for a parliamentary candidate much under 30, simply because I wouldn't trust the judgement of someone with such limited life experience.

Praguetory said...

My dad's 60 and he has people calling him young man - admittedly they are probably octagenarians.

mrs marr (29 and three quarters) said...

This sounds like a thinly-disguised defence of bed-blocker MPs (who usually can't distinguish between thirty years' experience and one year's experience thirty times).

If you're that worried about age, start quoting it minus VAT, postage and packing.

I blame Lord Ashcroft

Johnny Norfolk said...

I am 60 and am doing exactly what I want to do for the first time in my life. I am afraid Iain your problem is you spend far to much time in bed as previous pieces by you have indicated. Never has so much time been spent by one so young talking about beds.
At my age you cant get out of one quick enough being gratful you did not die in your sleep and get to live another day

Cox says said...

Asda and B&Q have a good track record with emplyoing the elderly - so it's not all doom and gloom.

Vlad the Impala said...

Despite hype to the contrary, there is a growing divergence between the UK and US in this respect. The power of the Baby Boomers is an established social, economic and political fact and reflected in a shift in the way their needs and concerns are addressed. America has AARP (American Association of Retired People) which is an effective, vocal lobbyist. We have Help the Aged. Says it all.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

Last night I caught one of the new 'quickie' BBC(?) news bulletins, delivered by a young woman in big spectacles. She told us about a murder investigation in which some bodies will be, or have been, 'dug up'. I assume that long words like 'exhumed' have been outlawed. They might tax the viewers' intelligence.

wonderfulforhisage said...

You young people don't know you're born.

Last year I had the mortifying (not quite actually) experience of being offered a seat on a bus by a woman!

I didn't know what to do (my mother had not covered this eventuality in her advice and guidance sessions all those years ago) and since I didn't speak the lingo (it was in Istanbul) I accepted the offer with as much grace as I could muster.

Luckily she got off a couple of stops later and I was able to regain a little of my self respect by passing the seat on to a pregnant woman who got on as my benefactor alighted.

I blush at the memory even though my circulation isn't what it was.

Got to dash, the old bladder needs attention.

ordinary housewife said...

Iain, my English master many years ago told me that anyone who reached middleage without lines on their face -had not had a life at all.

I would rather have lived a life than end it looking like a wax dummy. People obsessed with staying young are often ridiculous and very boring.

The best decade is the 50s -young enough to enjoy, experienced enough to avoid the extremes!

Shirley said...

Iain
In the real world (as opposed to Westminster) it is the other way round. Enjoy.

Does the phrase 'skills shortage' mean anything?

Paul Linford said...

I'm the same age as Iain so broadly speaking I sympathise, but in politics at any rate, I wonder whether it's possibly as much to do with shelf-life as age? The public seems to get bored of politicians much more quickly these days, meaning there is a higher turnover once they've been around for a certain length of time.

Alan Johnson is an interesting case in point here. He is older than Gordon Brown, but because he is still seen by many as a relatively fresh figure, he is almost certainly still has a longer shelf-life.

As for David Cameron, he is young enough to do a Gladstone and stay at the top of the political profession for 25-30 years if he wants to. But he won't, of course, because even if he becomes Prime Minister and does a great job, peopole will be sick of the sight of him in 10 years' time just as they were with Blair.

Rex said...

Christ I feel like the (grand)father of the house reading this!

All you kids ever do is moan now go outside and get some fresh air!

Paul Walter said...

You say "Society is definitely becoming ever more youth oriented" then go on to talk about TV presenters and newspaper journalists, who make up something like 0.00000000000001% of the population. Since when does society consist primarily of TV presenters and journalists or politicians?

Johnny Norfolk said...

So many young people in top jobs in the media. Thats why standards are so low and they think it is only the young that shoul be catered for

Chuck Unsworth said...

@ M Hristov

It's not your lack of grey hair, it's your short term memory that's the problem.

We heard you the first time. How many times do you want to tell us about your barnet?

kinglear said...

I'm 59. My children think I behave like a 12 year old

dannyboy said...

Trust me, Iain, those of us who are in our 30s and nowhere near newspaper editor/ shadow chancellor level - nor ever likely to get there - find this equally depressing!

Brian Pol said...

good point Iain, Ming Campbell was the most outrageous and in many ways digusting example of mocking the old and wise.

On the other hand, we should be careful not to criticise people who merely happen to be young (ish)-Clegg, Cameron, Osbourne, Miliband, with my non-partisan hat on all these and more have something to offer.

Tapestry: servants eh? I wonder what your view is on immigration to the UK

Old Steve said...

Age shouldn't matter in Politics
and in my mind it doesn't

I agree with your points made.

When Ming was proclaimed to be past it... I hesitated to think that this is the way of the world.

Application is the main thing and whether it be a quality politician at 45 or at 65, I couldn't care less... Our Country needs quality. I agree with you on the point.

"What we are doing is ignoring a huge group of talented people who have a lot still to give"

Kudos to Iain

Anonymous said...

Wait until you are 65, it's when Socrates' wisdom that all that stuff you think you know at 45 was only ignorance. I'm daily astonished by how little I knew in the past and how much less I know now. But it doesn't give me any more confidence in teenaged editors and foreign secretaries

PT said...

But 72 is the new 27

Paddy Briggs said...

But Iain wouldn't you and many other "libertarians" throw your hands up in horror if there was anti-ageist legislation? Discrimination is to be condemned in all cases - race, religion, nationality...and AGE. "British jobs for British workers" was unbecoming of the PM. "Ming too old" was unbecoming of political writers.

aardvark said...

Iain, it would be good if you could dig out some statistics on the age distribution of newly-elected MPs for the last 2 or 3 elections.

My impression is that the optimum age for election is about 34. Very few people above 45 get elected (for the first time) unless they are a celebrity of some kind.

Fortunately, in my own profession maturity and experience are valued and it is very rare for anyone under 40 to be appointed to a senior post.

Iain Dale said...

Paddy Briggs, you intimate that I suggested such legislation. I did not. This sort of thing is never solved by legislation - it's to do with society's values and views.

Rex said...

PT said...

But 72 is the new 27

No its 72 backwards

Michael Clarke said...

Our irrepressible,hyperactive, rookie M.P. fought his first campaign, here in Northampton South, in 2005.We won with the best swing in the East Midlands, capturing the seat from Labour and an outgoing M.P.who is 25 years younger.
Controlling his energy and zeal is the most common problem we have with him.He is 65 and has been re-selected to fight the new NS seat (marginal) whenever Mr.Bean calls the election.I write as his constituency Chairman.There is hope for you yet, Iain,but a good local track record is no bad thing!

Otto said...

Some men make their greatest achievements in youth, others rather later. Julius Caesar, who was subsequently not unsuccessful*, is reputed to have cried when he saw a statue of Alexander the Great and realised that he had only attained the rank of quaestor and was already older than Alexander had been when he died.

The cult of youth rather like political correctness will not endure.

(* Caesar's enduring achievements include conquering Gaul, authoring most of de bello gallico (that was still being read in schools in 20th century), having his very name, Caesar, becoming a synonym for emperor and having both a calendar and the month July named after him.)

Paddy Briggs said...

Iain

I did not mean to suggest that you favoured legislation but to confirm that I do. Society does not progress by people randomly deciding to modify their "values and views" (how naive can you get!). It changes only with legislation. Name me one social advance that you approve of that hasn't come from changes to the law. Just one !

Anonymous said...

you have just retired from broadcasting. unfortunately the career never really took off but then if you'd given it another 20 years it probably wdnt have done either.

Slim Jim said...

Iain, I would say that 50 is the new 40. At least it was for me, as I retired from full-time employment when I reached the half century (thanks to a great pension scheme). What hair I have left is mainly grey, but I have no desire to alter my appearance surgically or cosmetically. Although I had my beard trimmed to a Van Dyke in February, and all my friends and family thought I looked 10 years younger...but frankly I don't really care about my appearance (as long as I look clean and tidy). Maybe I'm eligible to enter politics then? One sobering thought though - if I can survive to three score years and ten - then I've got less than 20 years to party! Yeehah!

Paul Linford said...

Paddy

I am surprised Iain takes this line about legislation vs society's values.

On the issue of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, for instance, what came first - Roy Jenkins' legislation decriminalising gay relationships between consenting adults, or a change in social values?

As someone who went to seocndary school a decade after that when the most oft-heard playground taunts were still "poof," "bummer" and "homo," it's pretty clear to me that social values in fact lagged 10-20 years behind the enlightened values of the Labour Government which enacted those changes.

There is no point anyone being in politics if they are not prepared sometimes to lead public opinion rather than follow it.

Vienna Woods said...

Tapestry wrote,

Hit 50 and go and live abroad.

Exactly, but I did it out of frustration at being turned down for senior management positions, being just 44 at the time. I just couldn’t do what I wanted to do because even then (21 years ago!) anyone over 40 was being “put out to grass” in preference to the very inexperienced younger candidates, the majority of which were either the “bullshit baffles brains” type, or the “I’ve got a degree, give me a job, I’m cheap” desperados.

You are absolutely correct Tapestry in that abroad, age and experience is more highly valued. Even in the USA older men and women are valued more than in the UK. I often wonder if those that are currently emigrating in their droves are as frustrated as I was. I can understand how difficult it is to make a decision to leave, especially family and some of the culture. Nevertheless, after 20 years here in Vienna I’m enjoying the lifestyle after recently entering my pensionable years. Still got a mop of dark hair and nothing else is going grey except my eyebrows and I’m definitely doing nothing about that!

PJ said...

As a fellow 45 year old have some sympathy Iain - after 10 years at Westminster (which ages most of us!) I still think I've got ideas and plans to achieve - just like you with the new magazine - don't hit a mid life crisis - YET!
After all we still need to see West Ham win the Premiership!

Paul Walter said...

Go into business. Yes, there is the odd young whizz kid, but if you leaf through the business pages you will see lots of portraits of chairs and MDs who have lots of grey hair - even Richard Branson is 57. There is a reason for this. Business is actually important - as opposed to media and politics which isn't - and they need old gits running business who don't balls things up.

ozymandias said...

Paddy Briggs

You seem to be invoking an odd chicken/egg situation here - what came first the legislation or the change in values? Clearly, legislation can form part of the institutions that inform behaviour, but we know that the law evolves to catch up with society's values. Surely this is evident every day when you read of a certain group "calling for" something to be either legalised or banned?

For example, are you saying that the increasingly emmolient attitude towards drugs in comparison is the result of legislation? Cos I dont see any...

Anyway, we've got off topic. Ageism is bad, but one thing is clear from Vince Cable's recent performance - you can be old and a hit with the media. Ming Campbell wasnt a poor leader because he was old; he was a poor leader because he's just not the one in a million people who are cut out for political leadership.

Chuck Unsworth said...

@ Paddy Briggs

"Name me one social advance that you approve of that hasn't come from changes to the law. Just one !"

OK, time for some definition:

"Social advance" - define that please.

And it follows that the extent of "social advance" is measured against your own definition. So it may be one man's opinion only.

Is it your view that laws are made and then the populace complies? So, then, why and how are laws formed? Would you not accept that many laws are created as a result of public support, outcry or whatever? In other words that these laws are created as parliamentary (political) reaction to external force?

However, and to take your point at face value: I'd suggest that society's disapprobation of Murder as a means of resolving dispute was not brought about by legislation.

ozymandias said...

Is adultery considered objectionable by most people's standards?

Yes?

Aaaah, it must be illegal then. I'm going to trawl the net for the legislation that MUST exist for this social norm to have developed...

Sherlock said...

I do think you have to have taken your biggest risks by the time your 45 because its not too late to learn if you've screwed up.

Stalin McSporran said...

@ Brian Pol:

"Sir" Menses Campbell wasn't mocked foe being old despite being wise.

He was mocked, rightly, for being a stupid old bugger.

Jeremy Jacobs said...

And 50 is the new 35.

Charlotte Corday said...

I remember reading some years ago "The Grand Inquisitor" by Sir Robin Day. He made the point that many of his generation of newsreaders/reporters not only had top Oxbridge degrees but had seen active service during the Second World War, plus many had been active in politics (Sir Robin had been a Liberal Parliamentary candidate.) In other words they had LIVED before they entered journalism.
I'm tired of seeing bimbos with Media Studies degrees trying to sound authorative.

JohnofScribbleSheet said...

I am 22 and feel like time is passing me by. I feel too old as it is!

Yak40 said...

Welcome to the world, Iain.
My career ended at 50 with forced "retirement". They hired two people to replace me.

HF said...

Just think Iain of the wide pool of talent you can draw from for your new venture amongst the greys?

I would subscribe to your new magazine if:-

1. It has the option of an online subscription.

2. It is free of the spin that infects most political journalism.

3. When it reports polls it takes the trouble to explain the context with real insight. These days I rely more on the debate in pbc.com than newspaper journalists who have a shoddy regard for facts.

Anonymous said...

Considering your friend Nadine turned 50 this year, I don't think she would appreciate being labelled 'the new 65'.

Benny Austwick said...

I'm 19, i suppose i'd better start campaigning.

V said...

As someone who is the 'right age' at 38, I feel nothing but repulsion at your idea that life is all about image. However, you may have a point. When something isn't important, then it takes some razamatazz to make it sell - and that is where politics and the madia currently stand!

The problem is that youth naturally goes to the left, so with political and media world being youthful - the right and its economic superiority loses - and with it, does society.

never mind, we know the world works in cycles, its just a case of waiting!

Pogo said...

The Times is fast becoming a crap tabloid, the Telegraph is going downhill rapidly, Osborne and Cameron are a pair of lightweights... I don't quite see what you're getting so worried about, the folks at the top of real business tend to have a few more years behind them.

James said...

Calm down Iain, you'll give yourself a heart attack

Anonymous said...

Don't be so despondent - Saga may well want to have you as their poster boy - but not if you are so 'off message' from their pitch that 'life begins at 50'...

Not convinced that society is that ageist. Doris Lessing received a Nobel Prize, and she is 80 if she's a day. Brucie is getting good ratings despite being north of seventy.

Neither am I convinced by your argument that media careers are limited for people over 40 - it is true that many people re-appraise what they want from their careers in middle age, which is surely no bad thing.

You're not having a mid-life crisis are you Mr Dale ? Fear not, you can always swap that Audi for a Porsche , have a bit of liposuction and buy some Grecian 2000 and you'll bag a Russell Brand-a-like before the night is through, fear ye not..

happy to be past it said...

I'm in my fifties and I don't want to "contribute" any more!

I've done more than my bit and now I want a quiet life. Let someone else do the contributing and leave me alone to relax.

Matt said...

Iain, agree totally, there is an unhealthy obsession with youth. Conservatives would be wise, if they wish to be more open, to have some older candidates as well.

Lady Finchley said...

Portcullis House looks like a student union these days - full of braying interns and researchers. They come cheap, even the Oxbridge graduates but they make up for it in sheer arrogance and a startling lack of common sense. They look down their noses at anybody over 25and how I love to see them get their inflated egos pinpricked and demolished by the arcane workings of the House administration. It's a riot and it almost compensates for being made to felt as if one was an ancient and useless article.

Daisy said...

I just turned 50, but I don't feel it, and I'm told I don't look it. But yesterday I met an old school chum that I hadn't seen in years. I didn't recognise her, she recognised me.

It brought my age home to me. She was grossly overweight and looked middle aged. I didn't see myself as that old, until I saw her.

I guess it boils down to how you look after yourself.

Sure I'm only a wee girl!

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Iain.
what contribution can a 38-year-old make to editing a national newspaper?
lots of energy, little judgment.