Back Issues 18.02.05

FEBRUARY 1985

BY JON SLATTERY

Shah’s shock waves

News had leaked to Press Gazette that Eddy
Shah was planning a national newspaper using the latest technology,
satellite printing and full colour, in the style of USA Today . The
news sent shock waves through Fleet Street. Shah was a hate figure to
the print unions because of the long-running dispute at his Messenger
Group in Warrington over the introduction of new technology. His plan
to launch a national title was seen as the writing on the wall for the
Fleet Street print unions and paved the way for the national newspaper
exodus to Docklands.

Coleridge escapes from prison ordeal

Nicholas Coleridge, now managing director of Conde´ Nast, had been
locked up in jail for two weeks while filming a documentary in Sri
Lanka. Coleridge, then an Evening Standard columnist and contributing
editor to Harper’s and Queen, had been asked to make a film about the
troubles between the Tamils and Singalese. He and the film crew were
arrested by the Sri Lanka army and accused of being international
terrorists.

Coleridge said dryly of the ordeal: “It was my first filming assignment and I have no doubt it will be my last.”

‘Tremendous victory for free speech’

Civil servant Clive Ponting was acquitted after being charged under
the notorious Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act for leaking
documents about the sinking of the General Belgrano to Labour MP Tam
Dalyell. Press Gazette said the jury’s not guilty verdict “represents a
tremendous victory for free speech and a milestone down the road to
greater freedom of information”. What was surprising was that the jury
had defied the judge, Mr. Justice McCowan, who had dismissed Ponting’s
defence that he was acting in the public interest. There were immediate
calls for the reform of Section 2.

Reid backed after penetrating miners’ wives group Mail on Sunday editor Stewart Steven had come to the defence of his reporter Sue Reid who was up before an NUJ disciplinary tribunal.

Reid
had been accused of breaching the NUJ code of conduct by using
subterfuge to infiltrate Anne Scargill’s Barnsley miners’ wives against
pit closures group. Steven argued that sometimes journalists had to use
subterfuge to get stories, giving as an example an MoS interview with
the jailed Nelson Mandela in South Africa. “Some might feel that it is
slightly strange that the NUJ is incensed by the subterfuge in the case
of the Barnsley Miners’ Wives Against Pit Closure Committee and not the
case of the Nelson Mandela.”

Closing ranks to say: Farewell Cameron

The death of the great James Cameron was given massive coverage
across the media. His old friend and former colleague Sir Tom
Hopkinson, writing in Press Gazette , suggested that Cameron’s radio
and television broadcasts, along with his Guardian column, had made him
the bestknown working journalist in Britain. “He was the first of a new
type – the all-purpose journalist who can not only find the facts and
write, but can also speak and put his story across visually,” wrote
Hopkinson. “But his greatest quality was a deep humanity which
recognised no barriers of politics or race. If you were a member of the
human race, that was good enough for Jimmy.”

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