My week: the best of Press Gazette's diaries in 2007


Henry Peirse, the managing director of the Global Radio News agency, kicked the year off by writing about his network’s coverage of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein’s execution.

‘I feel a mixture of dread and excitement when I read that Saddam’s execution is imminent,’he wrote. ‘Dread because if it doesn’t happen I could be in for a quiet night, excitement because if it does, I will be at the sharp end of newsgathering for some of the world’s most prominent broadcasters.”

Saddam was hanged and GRN’s office ‘goes nuts”. ‘Anybody who has worked in an international newsroom will know exciting that moment is,’Peirse wrote.


Martin Hickman, The Independent’s consumer affairs correspondent, battled through PRs, press releases and a chest infection to work on the newspaper’s waste packaging campaign.

Fifty-four MPs signed an early day motion backing the campaign and members of the Women’s Institute threaten to take back rogue packaging to stores.

Hickman must speak for many journalists when he writes: ‘Calls from PRs tout a multitude of lost causes. The words: ‘We’ve done a survey’ deaden my senses, but I try to be polite.”


The News of the World’s assistant editor (digital) Bill Akass talked about his role in editing content from the paper for the web. The big stories include Liz Hurley’s wedding and the confessions of Jo O’Meara, who was caught up in the so-called Celebrity Big Brother race row.

He also took part in a Press Complaints Commission workshop with colleagues, arranged after the jailing of the paper’s royal editor Clive Goodman in February.


Observer reporter David Smith had a remarkable week in which he saw the Queen and Tony Blair harangued by an African human rights protestor in Westminster Abbey, celebrated his paper’s newspaper of the year award at the British Press Awards, interiewed a man who was filming his life 24 hours a day, and travelled to Wales to cover the smoking ban.

Smith also wrote the paper’s April Fool’s Day story, about Tony Blair starring in a play at the Old Vic theatre. ‘The idea of Blair becoming an actor is more believable than other stories I’m working on which are true.”


Ed Campbell, head of home news at ITV News, was kept guessing by 10 Downing Street over Tony Blair’s departure speech. ‘Number 10 is saying that they want Blair to make the announcement at an ‘iconic London location’though they won’t say where,’he wrote.

Madeleine McCann went missing in the same week, on 5 May, and Campbell sends out more staff to Praia de Luz. Presciently, he wrote: ’Whatever the competence of the investigation, they are clearly not prepared for the onslaught of Her Majesty’s press”.


As a bitter squabble erupted at the Conservative Party over its grammar schools policy, Matthew D’Ancona, editor of the right-leaning Spectator, was on hand to explain how and why his staff were covering the story.

Despite Tory protestations that the press and the party ‘move on”, D’Ancona said: ‘Nothing has been settled as far as I’m concerned”.

D’Ancona remarked that recently-resigned News of the World editor Andy Coulson’s appointment as head of communications for the Tories was a ‘brilliant’move. ‘The fact that someone of his stature is keen to join the Cameron team is just the boost the Tory leader needed in this week of all weeks,’he wrote.


Channel 4 News editor Jim Gray ran the channel’s coverage of the long-awaited transferral of power from Blair to Brown in late June, pitching his team’s cameras outside the iconic black door of Number 10 – risking a possible downpour.

There are memorable moments: ”That’s it. The End’ is a pretty unforgettable sign-off from Blair, and for me the way a slightly nervy Gordon Brown felt the need to tap the microphone just before making his first statement as prime minister.”


The farming community was shocked as Foot and Mouth disease returned, and Farmer’s Weekly community editor Isabel Davies organised her magazine’s coverage.

Paddy O’Connell, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House show, covered the tragic shooting of 10-year-old Rhys Jones in Liverpool and the BBC funding row in which both Jeremy Paxman and John Humphrys became embroiled.

Jeremy Langmead, editor of Esquire magazine, wrote about his magazine’s major redesign and said he was after some ‘wibbly wobbly’action.


Anthony Barnett, the recently departed Observer investigations editor, wrote about his investigation for Channel 4’s Dispatches on Lord Coe’s financial involvement with the organising of the London 2012 Olympics.

Coe hired formidable law firm Carter Ruck, who promised to sue if Barnett put ‘one foot wrong’in the final film. A senior Channel 4 executive told Barnett he ‘had not known such political pressure put upon a programme for some time”.


Kevin Maguire, associate editor (politics) at the Daily Mirror, was at the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth and spent a fair few hours schmoozing with the big-wigs.

He recounted someone overhearing Sun editor Rebekah Wade ‘wailing”I need to speak to Rupert immediately'”, after Gordon Brown’s speech adopted a not entirely Euro-sceptic tone.


‘When I say I love coming back to work in Baghdad, most people think I am lying or crazy,’wrote Reuters’ Baghdad bureau chief, Andrew Marshall, who had returned to the besieged city to lead the largest western media operation in the Iraqi capital.

‘I never need to set my alarm clock here – the early morning mortar attacks on the Green Zone would always wake me up,’he wrote. But he said conditions in the capital were getting ‘haltingly safer”.

In July, two of his colleagues Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh died in a US helicopter attack, taking the total Reuters staff killed in Iraq since 2003 to eight.


As ITV News foreign correspondent Robert Moore said: ‘No journalist expects to be dispatched to a country accused of genocide to report on the name of a teddy bear”.

Moore was one of many reporters who covered the story of Gillian Gibbons, the English school teacher jailed for blasphemy after calling a teddy bear Muhammad.

‘I was reminded of a six-day war between Honduras and El-Salvador, fought over a football match. The teddy bear dispute ranked right up there with the ‘soccer war’ as one of the world’s most ridiculous international incidents,’he said.

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