Podium: Once upon a Time in the Press ; from the Iain Walker Memorial Lecture, Given by the Writer and Journalist to the Reuters Foundation at Oxford University
Howard, Anthony, The Independent (London, England)
LET ME begin by trying to paint a picture of what newspapers were like in 1958, when I started out in journalism. Your chances of seeing them for yourselves are pretty small; everything today has been put on microfiche and even if you go to the newspaper library at Colindale - where those very surly porters used to come to you grumpily humping great bound volumes - nowadays you'll be presented with little packets of celluloid which you're left to fix for yourself on to the spools of those rather archaic projection machines. If only because on the spool each day's issue runs on automatically into the next, you don't get the feel of the real thing.
But if you were lucky enough to handle real copies (and nowadays only actors in, say, Noel Coward plays seem to be able to do so), I'm sure the first thing that would strike you is of what modest proportions the newspapers of my youth were made. The most striking contrast between the newspapers being published 40 years ago and those that clump on our doormats today lies in the sheer bulk of the latter products.
At the beginning of 1958 only two papers had more than one section - and they were those twin Sunday dowagers, The Observer and The Sunday Times (the latter already filling its second, or review, section with interminable military memoirs by such people as Field Marshal Montgomery and Lord Alanbrooke). Every other paper in Fleet Street was quite content to come out in the compact, economy size - 16-20 broadsheet pages on a good day, a mere 12 at those times of year when advertising was leaner. Newsprint rationing had been finally abolished only a year earlier, in 1957.
The matter of size, of course, imposed its own discipline - and it's amazing how we seem to have forgotten the constraints that it brought in its wake. When Jim Rose, the first post-war literary editor of The Observer, died the other day, I was amazed at how many of the obits referred to the quality of the books pages he produced each week. Nuts to that: there weren't …
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Publication information: Article title: Podium: Once upon a Time in the Press ; from the Iain Walker Memorial Lecture, Given by the Writer and Journalist to the Reuters Foundation at Oxford University. Contributors: Howard, Anthony - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: November 17, 1999. Page number: 4. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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