Michael Foot - A 'distinguished and brave' journalist

The National Union of Journalists has paid its tribute to former Labour party leader Michael Foot who first joined the union in 1937 and has died aged 96.

Foot was editor of the Evening Standard at the age of 28, from 1942-44, and is a former editor of Tribune and columnist for the Daily Herald.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “The union has always been very proud that Michael Foot was a member of ours, having joined the NUJ in 1937. We were particularly glad that his eminent career was recognised by membership of honour of his union in 1984.

“His career as a journalist was a distinguished and brave one, and his integrity and commitment to a diverse and free press was an inspiration to many.”

The Guardian obituary today has more on Foot’s career as a journalist, noting that he was first given a try-out at the New Statesman but that then editor, Kingsley Martin, decided not to give him a job.

He instead was one of the founder members of staff on Tribune, the leftwing weekly started by Stafford Cripps in 1937. He then joined the Evening Standard as a feature writer, having impressed its proprietor Lord Beaverbrook, and was on the paper’s payroll when war broke out.

After distinguishing himself with defiantly anti-Nazi leaders, Foot was made editor of the Standard in 1942 at the age of 28 leaving after the war to write a column for the Herald. He was ineligible for military service because of his asthma.

He was Tribune editor again from 1948-52 and from 1955-60, The Guardian reports.

Kevin Maguire, writing in the Mirror, today cites 10 things you didn’t know about Michael Foot, including the fact that he hated the Daily Mail, calling it the “Forgers Gazette”, and that libel damages from the Sunday Times helped pay for a new kitchen, as well as providing £10,000 to help keep Tribune going.

Foot fought and won a libel battle against the Sunday Times over the 1995 story headlined: “KGB: Michael Foot was our agent”.

The Telegraph, in its detailed obituary, reports that Foot’s twice weekly political column was dropped by The Herald after 20 years when the paper was relaunched as The Sun in 1965. Lord Beaverbrook came to his rescue, the Telegraph reports, appointing him as the Evening Standard’s chief book reviewer.

Geoffrey Goodman, writing in Tribune, notes that Foot returned to journalism and writing after standing down as an MP before the 1992 election.

“He wrote essays for Tribune, book reviews for his old paper, the Evening Standard, and yet more outstanding books. The hand was never still, the mind never wholly at rest, even when he could scarcely walk or see out of his remaining, partly functioning eye.”

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