Paul Foot was Journalist of the Year in the What the Papers Say Awards for his work on Private Eye and “for a number of more serious contributions”. The award was presented by Prime Minister Harold Wilson, who told his audience: “My complaint about Fleet Street is not that individual proprietors and top management are not good socialists, but they are bad capitalists.”He argued the proprietors were bad capitalists because they were restricting circulation of their newspapers by “slapping at least half the potential readers across the face with partial political judgements, selective reporting and political vendettas”.
Despite the Prime Minister’s view, newspaper sales were far higher than today. The Daily Mirror was the best-selling tabloid with sales of 4,388,446. Its nearest rival was the Daily Express with 3,390,049 – while The Sun could manage only 2,501,916.In magazines, latest ABC figures showed that nearly all IPC’s consumer magazines were up. Woman was selling 1.9 million, Woman’s Own 1.9 million and Women’s Weekly 1.8 million. Big gains were among the “young women’s” titles. Fabulous 208 had doubled its circulation in a year to 279,413 and Mirabelle, Honey, Petticoat and Valentine all had double-digit rises.
It was good news too for the regional press. The Northern Echo was selling 109,452 and the Coventry Evening Telegraph reached a record sale of 122,330. The Birmingham Evening Mail was selling 368,901 copies and the Birmingham Post 65,512. These compare with the latest ABC sales figures, for the six months to June 2002, showing sales of the Northern Echo at 61,138, the Coventry Evening Telegraph at 70,638, the Birmingham Evening Mail at 121,717 and the Birmingham Post at 18,246.
It was reported at ITN’s annual meeting that the company’s lunchtime news programme, First Report, was attracting a new audience of one million viewers. ITN’s News At Ten was pulling in audiences of around 15 million.
Those were the days. When George Casey retired as sports editor of the Sunday Mirror after 50 years on Fleet Street, his leaving present was a bit more exciting than a carriage clock. Colleagues chipped in to buy him a racehorse splendidly named Fleet Street Fifty. It was a two-year-old filly to race under his ownership in his colours. A picture of Casey and Fleet Street Fifty adorned the cover of Press Gazette as well as a shot from the presentation lunch when Hugh Cudlipp gave him a cartoon of the horse, drawn by Roy Ullyet of the Express. The Dog column revealed that when told of his present, Casey looked a gift horse in the mouth. “A racehorse? There goes m’bloody pension,” he said.
Reporters often bemoan the arrival of the mobile phone for leaving them at the beck and call of newsdesks, but 30 years ago the Daily Mirror was the first newspaper to put reporters on a “bleep bleep” call system. Press Gazette explained: “When the newspaper’s London desk wants to call its district reporter, it dials 007 followed by seven secret numbers. The result: a bleep bleep in the district man’s small receiver which he carries in his pocket 24 hours a day.” It was the idea of the Mirror’s legendary news editor, Dan Ferrari.
Stewart Steven, former foreign editor of the Daily Express, joined the Daily Mail as an assistant editor. He later went on to be the highly successful editor of The Mail on Sunday. n