Back Issues 16.10.03


Thirty-years ago the BBC was still upsetting governments. Its Iran office had been shutdown and correspondent John Bierman given three days to leave the country, after a Panorama programme about Iran had offended the Shah.


When football writer Eric Todd retired from The Guardian in Manchester, his colleagues knew exactly what to get him, a dartboard with his bête noire, football manger “Big Mal” Malcolm Allison, as a large-size “bull”, plus a set of darts.


LBC, the first commercial radio station in London, had just launched and had been “over-whelmed” by public response to its phone-ins. It reported that 10 lines reserved for phone-ins had been jammed. In the first 100 hours of broadcasting, staff had spoken to –
or played recorded messages from – 8,000 listeners.


The Sunday Times’s Nick Tomalin, pictured above, with Harold Wilson on the front page of Press Gazette, had been killed while covering the Yom Kippur War when a Syrian rocket shell hit his car.

Tomalin was one of the most admired journalists of his generation. He had been named reporter of the year in 1966 for his reporting on Vietnam. He had edited Granta, been a gossip columnist on the Daily Express and Evening Standard and literary editor of the New Statesman. The Times said of him: “He was a brave, clever witty and scrupulously honest man: these qualities, together with wide and natural compassion, informed his writing throughout a brilliant, varied and increasingly successful career.” In an article in 1969, Tomalin memorably summarised what he believed were the attributes needed to get on in his chosen profession. “The only qualities essential for real success in journalism are rat-like cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability.”


The ever-quotable columnist Jilly Cooper had turned down a move to the Daily Express, claiming that leaving The Sunday Times would be “like saying goodbye to a second husband”. The move could have doubled her salary of £5,000. “I guess I will be a lot poorer but I
won’t be living on bread and dripping,” she confessed. “The Express was nice to me but I don’t think they would have been able to translate my style. I am frivolous and wild and sometimes sexy, and I think this needs a more sombre newspaper. I believe in The Sunday Times; they started me and I have a tremendous loyalty to them.”


A newspaper’s objective was to inform and satisfy the reader, not to make money, Sunday Times editor Harry Evans told a conference of newspaper managers. “The journalistic objectives of a paper must be defined and given primacy or the newspaper will fail,” he warned. Evans argued that managements had to recognise that the public-service element in news-papers wasa journalist’s business. “The easiest way toproduce bad newspapers is to allow making money from it to become an obsession,” he said


Rupert Murdoch, that year’s Newspaper Press Fund appeals chairman, had visited the NPF’s retirement home for journalists in Dorking with good news. He revealed that he was within sight of his target of raising £50,000 for the fund’s coffers.

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