Back to the future: Press Gazette moves to Fleet Street

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By the time you read this, a new era of Fleet Street will have begun.

If
that sounds like a rather grandiose claim, well, it would hardly be the
first to have emanated from a thoroughfare that has housed so many of
journalism’s most extravagant storytellers for more than five centuries.

As
of this week, the street – number 149, to be precise – will once again
be home to the headquarters of a publishing business, continuing a
tradition that began when Wynkyn de Worde set up his printing press
next to St Bride’s church 506 years ago.

I’m writing this on a laptop computer in the empty room that from Thursday will become Press Gazette’s
new editorial office – and you’ll have to forgive me if some of the
colourful events that took place just the other side of the window have
infected my prose.

But I’d like to think that Mr de Worde, a
technologist ahead of his time, would have been suitably amazed if he
could see the workman installing the broadband cable that will allow us
to bring news, minute-by-minute to the entire world, of the trade that
he helped establish with the pamphlets he so painstakingly produced.

Fleet Street stalwarts

Similarly
gobsmacked would be Samuel Johnson, whose dictionary was written in
Gough Square, almost directly behind this building; or scoop specialist
Edgar Wallace, whose plaque at Ludgate Circus explains how he “gave his
heart” to the Street; or Herbert Mason, who stood on the roof of the Daily Mail building as the bombs fell to capture that iconic smoke-shrouded image of St Pauls’ dome.

In
fact any of the stalwarts of the Street of Adventure, as Philip Gibbs
christened it, as they weaved back to the office from an afternoon at
the Punch Tavern to clatter out copy on a battered typewriter, would
surely have been stared open-mouthed if you could have shown them the
tiny bank of fileservers that would one day do the work of their giant
compositing rooms. I hope they’d be delighted, too, to know that their
trade was still alive and well as it returns to its spiritual home.

Many
of those former denizens of the Street of Shame, as it became more
popularly known, gathered last June when Reuters held a service at St
Bride’s Church to mark its departure from number 85.

Tales were
told of derring-do, lowlevel cunning, stunning scoops and of course
hard drinking that helped seal the street’s legend – stories that no
doubt magnified a few more notches in the telling – of riots at El
Vino, of columnists making chihuaha sandwiches (ask Keith Waterhouse),
and of villainous proprietors urinating off balconies into the street
below.

But just as they were looking back through rose-tinted beer goggles at a colourful past, 12 months later we at PG are looking forward to an equally colourful future.

The
industry that was born, grew up and matured on Fleet Street and its
surrounding roads and alleyways continues to change dramatically – and
arguably more quickly than ever. The journalists who work for it remain
among the most passionate, creative and visionary workers in the
country.

Press Gazette will continue to report on their
triumphs and disasters, their feats and their foibles, just as it did
when it launched 100 yards down the hill at Salisbury Court, Fleet
Street, four decades ago.

It will monitor the developments that
keep the British public the bestinformed by the best and most liberated
press in the world – whether that’s from print on paper or from pixels
on screens.

From Thursday, it will do it from 149 Fleet Street.

It’s good to be back where it all began.

Fleet Street
THE HISTORY AND THE FUTURE

FLEET STREET DATES

  • 1500: Wynkyn de Worde sets up his printing press “at the sign of the Sun” next to St Bride’s Church
  • 1702: launch of the Daily Courant, the first daily newspaper
  • 1882: The Daily Telegraph moves in
  • 1911: William Randolph Hearst’s National Magazine Company arrives
  • 1931: Beaverbrook commissions the Express building
  • 1939: Reuters and PA move in
  • 1965: UK Press Gazette launches from Salisbury Court, Fleet Street
  • 1986: Rupert Murdoch moves his papers to Wapping
  • 1989: Last national newspaper to be printed from Fleet Street, the Sunday Express
  • 2005: Reuters moves to Canary Wharf
  • 2006: Press Gazette returns

FLEET STREET ADDRESSES

  • 40-43: The Guardian’s London office in the 1930s
  • 85: home of Reuters until 2005
  • 121-129: Express building until 1989
  • 133-141: Peterborough Court, the Telegraph building until 1987
  • 186: The DC Thomson London office that still houses some of its journalists
  • 80-81: home of Daily Chronicle until 1930
  • 149: new home of Press Gazette

FLEET STREET CLASSIC TEXTS

  • Press Gazette, every week – to subscribe call 01858 438 872
  • Fleet Street, 500 years of the British Press, Dennis Griffiths
  • Scoop, Evelyn Waugh
  • Towards the End of the Morning, Michael Frayn
  • A short walk down Fleet Street, Alan Watkins
  • Not Many Dead: Journal of a Year in Fleet Street, Nicholas Garland
  • The Essential Fleet Street: Its History And Influence, Ray Boston
  • Newspapermen: Hugh Cudlipp, Cecil Harmsworth King, and the Glory Days of Fleet Street, Ruth Dudley Edwards
  • Last of the Hot Metal Men: From Fleet Street to Showbiz, by Derek Jameson

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