Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Captain greybeard, aka ex-Mirrorman John Honeywell, who quit a few years back to devote himself to writing about life aboard cruise liners died this week, I learn. There’s a nice piece here by Dave Monk that describes well the making of the bon viveur we both knew as an assistant editor on Today a few short decades ago. He includes a quote I can hear him saying: “Any day at sea is better than a day in the office.”the Pacific Princess but, after much agonising, decided the ship as it was then was not quite child friendly enough for a family man; something he happened to mention with a sense of angst as he arrived for his shift. I just happened to be the one sitting opposite when he told the travel editor Sarah Whitfield King who was keen we didn’t pass up the cabin they’d reserved for us. Thus, I spent ten nights on a sun-lounger in the Med while Britain took the worst battering from gales in a generation and John stayed behind on a five-man beck bench in Vauxhall Bridge Road recording the whole thing. His loss. My gain, I suppose. But it's fair to say he probably more than made up for it. And deservedly so. As news execs go, they serious didn't come any nicer. And you'd have to run up a serious amount of sea miles before you found anyone willing to argue with that.
Thursday, October 12, 2017
Editor Sarah Cox's understandable outpourings on the closure of her newspaper struck a chord with me. I used to edit a local rival to her Bedfordshire on Sunday which, sadly, closed by Trinity Mirror last month. The BoS as it is, or rather was, known locally, was replaced by a midweek paper staffed by so-called “community content creators” as part of wider changes throughout the Trinity group. Cox reacted to the announcement by Tweeting: “Goes without saying my team and I are devastated about closure of [BoS]. Unfathomable. We need a strong local press more than ever.” And who can blame her? This was, after all, one of the last newspapers of a dying generation that actually prided itself on holding those in public office to account. It was founded by Frank Branston, a former People reporter, in 1977, five years before I became editor of the (yes, also now long defunct) rival, the Befordshire Journal. It changed hands a few times. He sold it to Iliffe News and Media when he became the town's mayor, Local World had it for a while after it absorbed Iliffe and it became part of Trinity Mirror when it took over Local World in 2015. Back in the eighties when I was there, competing with my free paper against the bigger, paid-for Bedfordshire Times, one of the biggest challenges as a tabloid was matching the sheer tenacity of Frank's approach to local news – and his unerring ability to get under the skin of a town with a massively diverse population and equally large scope for all sorts of dodgyness worth exposing. Occasionally, when we broke something big that got the nationals interested, our local critics (and we broke enough to gain a few of them) would accuse us of being “a bit too BoS”. I only ever saw that as a compliment. I haven't seen it for a while but did note Cox's comment that “losing a newspaper which is not afraid to be hated, ruffle feathers and annoy advertisers comes at a high price” which suggests that those old habits had lived on until the end. I was also struck by the fact that she had taken the editor's chair six years after doing her work experience there. I, too, was a teaboy-turned editor back in the day, albeit on different papers. Interestingly, one of those for whom I did fetch tea and run errands as a teenager, I later went on to hire to run my sports pages when I did finally make the editor's chair. Anyway, such a shame. RIP, BoS. Cox will do well, doubtless. She doesn't sound like someone to let the grass grow under her feet. And certainly not someone afraid to voice an opinion. Rather like her newspaper.
Monday, October 09, 2017
Every year when I'm prepping for a module on news production, I end up seeking howlers to put in front of students to demonstrate the pitfalls they'll face. In the old days when subs desks were places to aspire to they were hard to come by and, rather than resort to the timeless classics, I'd have to make them up. As I did on Friday when showing undergrads at Westminster how Jacuzzi would probably sue if a generic headline named a no-brand spa bath as one of theirs as being faulty or how car crash with no injuries cannot be carnage. the decapitated head. Note to students. Head in Latin is caput. To decapitate means to cut off the head. You can decapitate a body, not a head. Take a bow, the Telegraph, Independent and Time for noting the head had been severed. Ironically, one of the things I always tell students at the start of these classes is this – read the papers. All of them. All the time. It's the only way the styles will become familiar and you'll get into good habits.