Not all editors belong on a pedestal

Press Gazette’s occasional column My First Editor usually makes
irksome reading, almost invariably consisting of a pathetically
grateful hack waxing obsequious – often several decades down the line –
about some megalomaniac, slave-driving old duffer who used to under-pay
and over-work them, and taught them all they knew simply by lounging
behind the editor’s desk, barking orders, smoking a cigar and rejecting
99 per cent of their copy.

This week’s superhuman paragon, former
Newham Recorder editor Tom Duncan, isn’t necessarily the worst offender
in this series – he comes across as merely the latest in a long, weary
parade of self-important twits.

But his catchphrase, as quoted by
protegé Hugh Muir, takes the biscuit in terms of sheer narrow-minded
doublethink. Duncan is quoted as saying: “What you forget is I am the
editor. Even when I’m wrong, I’m right.” OK, perhaps he couched this in
a wry humour that is lost in translation to cold print, but one assumes
it was essentially meant seriously.

To claim to be right even
when one is wrong is not proof of omnipotence but a symptom of weakness
and inhumanity – not being big enough or realistic enough to concede
that mistakes can be made and sometimes the buck stops with you, the

Like many (ex-)editors, Duncan seems to have an inflated
sense of his own power. Yes, editors are high up in the hierarchy of
newspaper production, but that doesn’t make them infallible or superior
as humans or as colleagues. They are there to do a job – not to ponce
about on a sadistic ego trip and mask their insecurities by criticising
everybody’s work except their own.

It would be refreshing to see
a My First Editor column in which a former underling refused to cower
to these prats’ egos, by giving the negative, or at least ambivalent,
account that some editors really deserve.

Francis Harvey, Bristol

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