Press says goodbye in style

First with reports from the Queen Mother’s funeral was the Evening Standard with a picture front, an evocative descriptive piece by Valentine Low and an inspired outsider’s view from author John Mortimer.

Out on Tuesday afternoon, coverage from the Standard’s 13 reporters and 14-strong photography team prepared the scene for the national newspapers the next day. Almost all seized the opportunity to do the Queen Mum proud.

There were as many words written in special supplements and page after news page as there were mourners outside Westminster Abbey and along the route to St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

As Graham Dudman, head of news at The Sun, put it, "the equivalent of a couple of paperback books" had been filed to his paper alone.

The Sun and The Mirror had some 20 journalists each – Dudman lost count after reaching a score – in strategic positions along the route and at the Abbey. It was a triumph for both news and feature writers, wrapping up the morning’s solemnities by late afternoon in words their readers will treasure in special issues.

Photographers and picture desks came into their own. What viewers had seen of the magnificent pomp and ceremony on their television screens, the nationals captured in timeless stills.

Dudman and Richard Wallace, his opposite number at The Mirror, used virtually the same words to describe their well-planned operations: "It went like clockwork, just like the funeral ceremony itself."

Dudman said: "The system held good. I am a happy man; everybody from chief reporter John Kay to the youngest casual did a superb job and they should be very proud of themselves."

Wallace said: "You always think on these occasions that something could go horribly wrong but everything has gone remarkably smoothly.

"The facilities all worked perfectly; everybody was in the right place at the right times and we have been able to do our jobs uninterrupted without getting in the way."

Of The Mirror’s 37 pages on the event, he said: "Pictorially it was fantastic. We wanted to reflect that the country is indeed interested in the royals – one million lining the route – without resorting to clichŽ.

"We decided to do it properly and exhaustively."

It was a thought that must have been in the minds of almost every editor. Even the republican-leaning Guardian devoted two-thirds of its front page to the story, using a cleverly crafted colour piece by Jonathan Freedland and a two-page spread inside.

lThe Newspaper Publishers Association issued more than 1,000 journalist and photographer passes to national and regional newspapers, magazines, agencies and overseas press in the space of five days.

Director Steve Oram said: "It was a news story in itself." Two of the six staff immediately cancelled their four-day Easter break.

From Sunday onwards, without a break for most of the six staff, they worked 77 hours in seven days. Sue Leavy, responsible for press accreditation, worked 100 hours, staying late every night at a hotel close to the office.

Oram’s office had prepared for the moment for years, he said: "But we could not prepare for the changes to locations, times, number of passes, let alone the number of names changes after allocating passes and notifying the authorities."

The detail involved meant employing casual staff was almost impossible. Just three helpers, close friends of the staff, were involved.

"The staff were tremendous. They gave it all they had. They worked every day for long hours and I mean worked," said Oram.

 

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