LONDON TERROR

By Dominic Ponsford

City reporters, agony aunts and TV critics found themselves filing
copy from a disaster zone as the national newspapers threw all their
resources behind covering Britain’s worst terrorist attack since
Lockerbie. News of the “power surge” at Liverpool Street broke at
9.11am on Reuters as reporters were making their way in to work.

As the entire tube network was suspended newsdesks were faced with
the problem of how to cover the story when it looked like many staff
weren’t going to be able to make it in. And to further add to the
challenge mobile phone networks went into meltdown unable to cope with
the volume of traffic.

The Sun threw a team of 33 reporters and nine photographers at the story to provide 23 pages of coverage.

Reporter Lucy Hagan was on another job in central London when news broke of an explosion at Aldgate East.

She said: “I was told to go to Aldgate, then the second call was to go to Edgware Road.

“I
got there by about 9.45am and it was really weird, everyone was running
away from the station, policemen were screaming for people to get away
but I was running towards it which was a bit surreal. I walked around
the back to get as close as I could to the station and there was a
press pen already set up so they let us through.

“Mobile phones
were down so it was quite eerie because it was so quiet – when you’re
in the pack normally there are mobiles going continually.

“At
Edgware there were about 30 of us in the pen, lots of different
languages and lots and lots of TV, which is a bit difficult because
every time an eyewitness came forward there was a lot of jostling.”

Hagan
added: “We were very close to the station and the police were excellent
providing lots of briefings. They also moved us around a lot so
photographers could get shots from different angles.

“Filing copy
was difficult without a mobile but there are always ways and means. A
nearby chemist was charging journalists £1 a go [to use their
phone]. I paid £2 because I had a lot of stuff.”

The
Sun managing editor Graham Dudman said: “It was a huge effort from
everybody from reporters and photographers to subs on the middle and
back bench. People called in0on their days off, agony aunt Deidre
Sanders – who was caught up in the Asian tsunami – was at King’s Cross
when it happened, and TV critic Ally Ross lives around the corner from
Aldgate so he did a piece for us as well.”

At the Daily Mirror
some 26 reporters and 11 photographers were bylined for its news
reports on the disaster and the paper devoted 33 pages to the story.

Deputy
editor Conor Hanna said: “As news came in about the explosions
reporters were on their way into the office and many were in town
anyway so were able to get them to the places affected pretty quickly.
You always need one or two reporters in the office to help the newsdesk
pull the story together but everyone else was dispatched to the sites.

“I’d
like to praise all our reporting staff who did a fantastic job and our
production staff who had to overcome pretty difficult circumstances to
get to the office and who fought against the clock to produce an
impressive paper. On a story like this you just clear the decks and
produce as many pages as you possibly can.”

Daily Mirror reporter
Megan Lloyd- Davies was on her way to Liverpool Street when she was
diverted to Tavistock Place – the scene of the bus explosion at 9.47am.

By a combination of taxi and walking she got there by 10.30am.

She
said: “I walked past a woman talking on her mobile phone about it and I
heard her say that she’d been on the bus behind the one that was blown
up. An American guy who heard me talking to her said he had two people
in his hotel room who had been next to the bus when it exploded so I
went up and spoke to them as well.

“I just filed copy back to the
newsdesk every time I could get a phone signal – journalists from other
papers were also really helpful letting me use their phone if it was
working.

“Because every newspaper had sent everybody out I kept
bumping intounlikely people such as someone who works on the Telegraph
arts page and someone else who covers media for The Guardian.”

The
Guardian’s Farringdon base placed it closer to the action than the
Wapping and Canary Wharf-based papers. Editor Alan Rushbridger’s bike
was even pressed into action by one reporter.

News editor Ed
Pilkington said: “People were able to either walk or cycle to the
places affected from the office so we had the sites covered within
about an hour. The second wave was getting the specialists up and
running such as security editor Richard Norton- Taylor, columnist
Duncan Campbell and crime reporter Rosie Cowan.

“Then we had a
team of about 10 people out picking up survivors’ stories. It was
one of those occasions where everyone was volunteering for work.”

Pilkington was Guardian foreign editor on 11 September, 2001, and he said that last Thursday’s events were eerily familiar.

He
said: “It was very similar in lots of little ways, such as you couldn’t
speak to correspondents because mobile phones were out. And there was
the same feeling of personal involvement with the story coupled with a
professional focus on getting the paper out.”

The Guardian’s
9.15pm first-edition deadline was brought ahead to 7.30pm because a 50
per cent increase in print run meant the paper would take longer to
distribute.

Despite having a much smaller editorial staff than
the other quality papers, The Independent still managed 35 pages of
news, analysis and letters about the terror blasts.

Managing
editor Charles Burgess said: “Lots of reporters were in various places
just coming in when the news broke and as always in these situations
everyone rose to the occasion. We printed an extra 50,000 and we ended
up being about 40 minutes late off stone.

Everyone was brilliant and we thought we were as good as anyone else.”

Independent
on Sunday executive editor Andy Malone was on his way intowork on the
Jubilee Line when he was evacuated from his tube carriage and ended up
reporting from the disaster scene for the sister daily.

He said:
“They were talking about it being a power surge but that didn’t ring
true because you could see they were already putting helicopters up.”
Malone walked to Aldgate East and then to nearby Tavistock Square and
Russell Square.

He said: “When a big news event like this happens
the traditional rivalry between the Sunday and daily doesn’t apply –
everyone just piles in because everyone wants to contribute and do what
they can.

“I managed to get outside Russell Square tube to
interview survivors before being ejected behind the police barriers.
The thing that most impressed me was the fact that the police,
ambulance services and ordinary people were absolutely calm – everyone
helped each other.”

The Times devoted 25 pages to coverage of the blasts.

News
editor Robert Wellman said: “First of all we concentrated on getting
our reporting staff in the right place, then we started thinking about
our specialist writers and getting them going on various aspects of it
all.

“We had about 15 people out and a fair few in the office working on it.

People
from other departments helped so we had Suzy Jagger from the business
desk who was close to one of the stations and did some good work for us
there.

“Once the enormity of the situation was clear experience
kicks in and you make sure you have got the right people in the right
places. We also made sure that our good writers, such as Matthew Paris,
David Aaronovitch and Robert Crampton, were out there in the thick of
it.”

Despite increased pagination and a boost to the print run he said the paper was off stone on time at 7.30pm.

The
Daily Telegraph printed an extra 200,000 copies and journalists managed
to get the paper off stone early to aid distribution. A spokesman paid
tribute to a “great team effort”.

The Daily Express, although
another of the less well-resourced nationals, produced 30 pages of
coverage and had a reporting team of 32 working on the news pages.

The Daily Mail published 23 pages of news and analysis and had 35 reporters working on the story.

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