Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

David Banks Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

David Banks Columnist

Article excerpt

MEMORIAL services are pretty much my only reason for being in London these days; that and boozy dinners with my daughter, La Guardianista.

Death exerts a powerful pull on otherwise Godless old journalists, especially months after the former colleague has been tearfully weighed off to The Wherever with funereal solemnity, much sighing and slow shaking of woolly old heads.

Some of us skip the burial bit altogether and hold ourselves in reserve for the memorial flashmob where drink flows and old foes trade blows: truly, black tie at noon, black eye by eight.

Memories are, for some of us, a little rusty by now: "Who are we doing today?" I was asked by a boozy-breathed old reporter as we helped one another up the steps of St George-in-the-East, parish church of Godfather Murdoch's monastery at Wapping.

"Kevin Conkey," I reply. "Great sub editor, wonderful revise sub, one of the old school."

"Kev was the best," mutters my wheezing septuagenarian former colleague, only to ruin the impression of deep mourning moments later by snorting into his handkerchief and adding: "Was he with us on the Mirror or the Sun?" Gentle Kevin, I remind him, was thirty years on the Sun and when something mis-spelled, mistaken or just plain mischievously malevolent DID get into the paper it MUST have been on one of Kev's nights off. He was on strike when the notorious Argybating 'Gotcha!' headline was written, in bed with flu when Hillsborough happened and was sent packing with an editor's flea in his ear when animal-loving Kevin pointed out the likely flaws in 'Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster!'.

Prodnoses, we old journos called them: a dying breed of men and women who cared passionately about accuracy over speed of delivery; editorial equivalents of the Roman slaves who shadowed emperors whispering "Thou art but mortal, Caesar" to prevent the big-head getting a God complex. How many editors have needed THAT!

One invaluable strength of the greatest of Prodnoses was an instinctive ability to spot what are known to journalists as 'literals'. Definition from the Dictionary of Hackery? …

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