John Dale - Editor of Take a Break

15.09.05

I like my prurience dressed up with purpose, and today we have a
story which suits. It’s got sociology, history, class, epidemiology and
medical science. And off-beat sex. Great.

So I slap on a new coverline: “Orgasm Lib For Women”.

It’s
been a long gestation, which began with another coverline, “Mum of 10
in Non-stop Orgasm Hell” (and all she can do is moan!).

Three issues ago we ran a health special where Karl Marx met Wilhelm Reich under the banner of “Orgasms For All”.

The readers’ hotline started buzzing like a shelf in Ann Summers.

Now
I sit at my desk and read yet another message: “Dear Take a Break, I am
60 years old and have just had my first orgasm with my new husband
after years of miserable marriage. Yes, I am happy for you to use my
name, address and picture. I want to tell the world.”

Another
says: “Dear Take a Break, I was in the shower when I felt pleasantly
funny. It was my first time. I rang all my friends and told them. They
tried it too. I am 51. So many women go through life without an orgasm.
I have informed my husband. Use my name. I’m not embarrassed.”

These are genuine readers. It’s their eagerness to go public which is shocking.

16.09.05

If only prurience were always justified by purpose. Again I sit at
my desk, this time murmuring “crap, bollocks, shite, more crap”. I am
turning pages and assessing our rivals. To be honest, they are probably
saying the same about us. We are classed as women’s weeklies, but some
of us have become more like lurid American tabloids from the 1960s.

We have long been overtaken in terms of the brash and the crass, if
not sales: “Trapped! By a 20-year-old sperm”; “Betrayed! By Jo’s fruity
buns”; “Bashed to death with his own crutches”; “Me and my wandering
pussy”; “I wake up to a three-foot cock!”; “Stripper by day, butcher by
night”; “My Steve fed his mate though the mincer”.

In 1964 I read
Hugh Cudlipp’s Publish and Be Damned and decided journalism was for me.
It had purpose. It could be a force for good. Some editors seem
untouched by such dreams.

Like David Brent, I am an entertainer first, boss second. Pious hypocrite that I am, I believe we should try to serve readers not exploit, love not mock, improve not cheapen. I slip into the gutter sometimes, but, in the old movie line, it’s a great place for looking up at the stars.

Lunch
at Sardo Canale, Primrose Hill, and decide that the journalistic life
definitely remains a force for good when it refreshes me with Sardinian
wine.

19.09.05

Receive photos of the 60-year-old woman who wishes to tell the world
about her first orgasm. Compare the “Before” and “After”. Now she looks
20 years younger. Apply primitive headline skills: “Wow, What a
Difference”.

But how much will it upset what I call “Our County Antrim ladies” –
readers who wish we maintained a 1950s innocence. In a pathetic ploy I
attach a flash: “Health Special”. Using agreed percentages, we
calculate there are 799,999 more readers yet to have an orgasm. In the
manner of the much missed Geoffrey Dickens, MP, I tell my girlfriend I
wish to do them all a favour. She gives me the raised eyebrow and says:
“A tad ambitious.”

The British Society of Magazine Editors sends
a voting form for Editors’ Editor, a title worth hundreds of thousands
in increased advertising revenue. I know – from first-hand experience –
that some editors try to do reciprocal deals with other editors on the
lines of “You nominate me, I’ll nominate you”, with the result that
previous lists have included people only their mothers would vote for.
But this year’s crop look sound. I tick a name.

20.09.05

Some good stories, everything going too well. Then we receive a solicitor’s letter. Work, like life, is subject to events.

It’s a reminder that journalists walk a tightrope and sometimes a foot slips.

Hear
from our feature writer who is accompanying TV’s Lady Vicar of
Boscastle to inspect tsunami-hit villages in Thailand. She insists the
insects are “horrendous”. It’s a serious story and I expect good words
and pictures.

21.09.05

The premise behind this very column rests on the popular
misconception that a journalist’s life must be as exciting as the
headlines it generates. That may be the case if you are Kate Adie or
Piers Morgan or the editor of Zoo.

But, although Take a Break dabbles in murder and mayhem and sexual incontinence, my own daily existence does not.

I
make calls to organise yet another Fleet Street tour. It’s about my
10th run with my maturer colleagues Robin Corry and Robert Wilson. The
tour aims to show our younger staff what Fleet Street was, what it
meant, where popular journalism comes from and why we have one of the
best jobs in the world – and we should not betray that privilege, to
please publishers or pander to prejudice.

I am great admirer of
the Daily Express Old Boys and Girls Social Club and it is a pity
someone doesn’t do it for all the old Fleet Street newspapers. We ought
to have a Fleet Street Day, when hacks young and old return to their
old haunts (welcome or barred). We could nominate the first Friday
lunchtime in, say, February.

Do a cover. For once not everyone argues with me about it.

At
5.30pm, bored, we drift into random discussions including the creation
of the Clementine orange in 1904 by Monsieur Clementine, and the
likelihood of any woman in the room having a surprise baby in the next
30 minutes.

At 6pm no baby has dropped. Disappointment.

We pull on our cloth caps and woollen shawls and clomp home for our teas.

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