We baristas at Coffee House tend not to write about each other, but today I’d like to make an exception and say a little about Pete Hoskin, who is going freelance after four years running this blog. Regular CoffeeHousers will know about his rare combination of insight, humour and his gentle writing style which only adds to the force of his comment. But writing is only the most visible part of his job. His job for the last few years has been Coffee House editor – which not only means protecting the blog’s character and sense of fun, but working on the copy filed to him. As someone who has had several hundred pieces improved by Pete’s editing, I perhaps owe him more than anyone else at The Spectator.
When Matthew Parris was named Columnist of the Year recently, he stood up at the podium and thanked his editor Anne Spackman – about the third Times writer to do so that night. The debt to which writers owe their editors is huge, and not always appreciated by readers. Editors can save writers from their own errors, spot mistakes, tone down their obsessions and steer them on to topics they might not have otherwise considered. Pete has done all that and more for me, identifying and excising my flabbier arguments and saving me from countless embarrassments. An editor’s judgment is all the more important with blogs, because the requirement to respond quickly means that you’re putting your first impressions into print – and first impressions are almost always revised as more facts become clear. So blogs can be strewn with hostages to fortune. It’s a rare day that, if Pete is around the office, I haven’t asked him to cast his critical eye over a piece I’ve written – and not just Coffee House blogs. I owe him more favours than I can count.
When the internet age started, it was argued that the major columnists (especially the American ones) would just sell their product to readers directly: if Paul Krugman charged $1 a year to everyone who read his piece and just dumped the New York Times, wouldn’t he be far richer? This hasn’t happened, and I suspect that’s because of the irreplaceable relationship between writers, editors and the titles they work for. If you like Coffee House then you have three people to thank: Matt d’Ancona, whose idea it was, James Forsyth, whose imagination and industry made our blog into something bigger and better than any of us thought possible, and Pete, who has been the best editor anyone could ask for.
Pete is now going off to write rather than edit, having come into fairly regular demand from everyone from The Telegraph, The Times to Tatler. He’ll also expand his writing beyond Westminster, being as interested in books and the arts as he is in what happens in SW1. He has interviewed Rebecca Hall for the cover story in the next issue of our quarterly, Spectator Life. I will hugely miss him as a colleague. But as a fan, I look forward to his going solo. This may be the end of an era for Coffee House, but – I suspect – the beginning of an era for Pete. I wish him the success he so richly deserves.