Any young journalists fed up with hearing from older colleagues about how bloody great everything was in the days of hot metal, long lunches and Fleet Street japes should take heart from comments overheard by Axegrinder at City University last night.
Speaking at a debate about science journalism, former Daily Mail science editor Mike Hanlon had some insight to share about the quality of journalism in the ‘good old days’. Most of it was apparently crap.
He said: “We shouldn’t forget how terrible most journalism was 20 or 30 years ago. Most of the stuff they wrote in the ‘good old days’ was total rubbish.
“In 1952 when Watson and Crick joint published their DNA research in Nature it took four months for any British journalist to notice.
“The standard of journalism across the world was abysmal. Journalists’ accounts of World War Two at the time were out and out nonsense.
“Science journalism in the 1960 and 1970s was rubbish. It is much better now.”
Asked by Axegrinder to elaborate afterwards, Hanlon said: “It really is instructive to dive into the ancient cuts from time to time.
“Most of the old columnists wrote reams of semi-literate and deathless drivel. Many were knocking quite hard on the doors of outright fascism. Get hold of some of the stuff written by Jean Rook or George Gale and your eyes will water ….
"But at least they had something to say, the liberal columnists as late as the 1970s wrote what reads today like meaningless jumbles of words.
“The news stories were even more dependent on spoon feeding and cuts than they are today. Factoids became entrenched because no one bothered to check anything they read or were told."
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