23 03 2016
Former News of the World Political Editor Ian Macaskill has died.
IAN MACASKILL TRIBUTES: Ian Hernon
Ian, a former PA stalwart, was political editor of the News of the World from 1988 to 2000 and was the unofficial father of the Sunday Lobby. He had recovered from a long illness and had an active retirement, but died suddenly, unexpectedly and mercifully. His funeral is 2pm Thursday March 31, St Marys in Ewell Village, for the service and burial, then onto the RAC golf club in Epsom after.
I worked with Ian for many years at the PA. He was one of the most jovial and hard-working colleagues I have ever encountered. He brought a smile to everyone’s face. He was always cheerful, totally trustworthy and a huge pleasure to have around. He was greatly, missed when he left the PA.
I got to know Ian very well during my time in the Lobby with the Express, Sunday Telegraph and Mail on Sunday. He was a lovely man, an engaging colleague and an extremely shrewd political journalist with an impressive array of contacts. He was also one of the funniest men I have ever met.
Ian Macaskill was an old friend and colleague in the Lobby and the source of good counsel when it was needed. As well as being a veteran of the News of the World and Press Association, he was also a stalwart on the old Evening News, for whom he reported on Northern Ireland.As a fellow golfer and RAC member, I can add that he was also extremely popular during and after a round at Woodcote Park which adjoined his home in Epsom. He was a fund of wonderful stories about old Fleet Street, politicians’ antics and the trade unions. He was sent to Westminster by The Screws to unearth bawdy tales of dissolute conduct among the governing classes. When this failed to bear fruit, he found a jollier pursuit touring its many bars and drinking clubs as, I think, Our Man at The Bar.
A sad loss. Iain was an unflappable, shrewd observer of the goings-on in the mad Gothic shed by the river. Always with a twinkle in his eye (and a glass in his hand) he treated politicians with the amused scepticism they deserve.
Ian was a fine Highland gentleman and a great friend who added hugely to the enjoyment of working in the parliamentary lobby.
Ian was a great journalist and a good friend. There are very few like him today.
Small correction though, I think he was at the News of the World until about 1996. Then it was Eben Black. I took over in 1999.
Ian was not only a finder and fount of great stories, he was often the focus of great stories.My favourite:Ian was a top reporter on his local paper in Nairn, Inverness. He was sent to cover the local schools’ swimming contest. He was assigned a wee lad, from Inverness, on his first week at the paper who was told ‘Stick close to Ian – he’ll show you how to do the job’.When they reached the pool, Ian told the wee lad that his job was to get a list of the children who were 1st, 2nd and 3rd (on the basis that every name in the paper sold three copies). Ian left the wee lad on his own at the pool. (He had better things to do – can’t think what).When he returned, all the wee lad had to offer him were the names of the winners of each race. Ian realised he would be in deep, deep doo doo back in the office. He was so furious, he grabbed the wee lad by the lapels and shoved him backwards – into the swimming pool.This wee lad was so traumatised by the brutalities and dangers of this journalism trade, he quit there and then and went off to find himself a soft, safe job – as a fireman, shinning up ladders, smashing his way into burning buildings to rescue old ladies (whether they wanted it or not).The next time they met, Ian was a Fleet Street industrial correspondent. The wee lad was Ken Cameron, the leader of the Fire Brigades Union. They were inseparable ever after.
Ian was life enhancing – I remember him arriving very late in Kiev with Adrian Lithgow for the flight home on board Margaret Thatcher’s BA plane after a night of heavy researching carrying a piano accordion. He couldn’t play the accordion but took a fancy to it in a Kiev market. I am sure he’ll be playing it now!
I benefited greatly from Ian’s kindness as one of the, thankfully many, colleagues who were always ready to help new recruits to the Lobby; I know many others did too, and he went on to become a friend whose mere presence could put a smile on your face.
Mr Healy puts it perfectly. The best thing about these tributes apart from bringing old colleagues to mind – and I vanished from Room 2 almost 20 years ago and that was after a brief return – is that at least you find out who is still alive and writing.
What I remember most was Ian’s ever ready smile and those friendly, ever willing “note checks” in the lower Gallery after some tricky or rapid exchange in the Chamber. RIP Ian.
23 03 2016
THE JOURNALISTS’ Charity saluted one of its favourite people when Dan Mulhall, Ireland’s Ambassador to the UK, was presented with the Charity’s special award at the British Press Awards gala dinner on March 22.
The award is in the gift of the council of the Charity and presented to an individual or body that has made an outstanding contribution to journalism and journalists.in any way.
Sue Ryan, chair of the Charity, said: “The recipient of this year’s Journalist Charity award is a friend of the press in general – and a friend of the Charity in particular.
“Ambassador Dan Mulhall has had two press officer roles: first, in Brussels in the 90s where, at the Irish Representation Office to the EU, he fielded questions from Boris Johnson and Lionel Barber; then in Dublin at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs spending many a day in Belfast including during the Good Friday Agreement negotiations.
“He arrived in London in 2013 as Ireland’s Ambassador to the UK and inherited the task of hosting an annual party for the Journalists’ Charity which is one of the best press gatherings in the annual calendar.
“The award, given in recognition of the help given by his predecessors as well as the tremendous support we have had from Ambassador Mulhall, goes to a man, who to quote his literary hero; ‘Thinks like a wise man but
communicates in the language of the people’.
“His hero is of course Yeats – the poet that is, not the wine lodge – and if you don’t already visit his blog or follow him on Twitter, go to Twitter handle @Dan Mulhall, I recommend it as a great source of inspiration.
“Yeats said, ‘Being Irish, I have an abiding sense of tragedy which sustains
me through temporary periods of joy.’ “We hope this is can be considered one of the ambassador’s joyous periods.”
The award was again sponsored by the Gorkana Group, and Cheryl Douglas, Gorkana’s head of media research and jobs, presented it to Ambassador Mulhall.
For full details of the National Press Awards, organised by the Society of Editors, go to www.pressawards.org.uk
21 03 2016
Journalists’ Charity “Ambassador” Julie Etchingham revealed the “light bulb moment” that led her to career as an award winning broadcaster. Speaking at the Birmingham Press Club Spring lunch, Julie said she had kept a diary since she was six years old.
“When I was about 13 my mother said: ‘Do you want to be a journalist?’ It was a light bulb moment. Of course, I wanted just that – to be a journalist.
“And after work experience at Radio Leicester, Centre Radio and the Leicester Mercury I was convinced that was the career for me,” Julie said during an “interview” with Press Club president and Journalists’ Charity Life Vice President Bob Warman.
After Cambridge University she joined BBC Midlands as a graduate trainee and presented a raft of programmes including “Midlands Today” and “Newsround”. On leaving the BBC, Julie joined Sky News before switching to ITV in 2008 to co-present the re-launched News at Ten alongside Trevor McDonald. She is still a regular presenter on “News at Ten”.
Julie, who has just been voted the Royal Television Society’s news presenter of the year – the second time she has won the coveted award – spoke about her career that has taken her all over the world. Highlights included interviewing leading international figures such as Hilary Clinton, fronting the Leader’s Debate ahead of last year’s General Election and presenting coverage of major events , including the election of Pope Francis and Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton.
She told guests that one of her most challenging moments was hosting the Leader’s Debate – the first time that such a television event had been broadcast in the UK. The next significant challenge would be covering the EU referendum – the biggest question that today’s generation would probably ever face.
A raffle at the lunch raised more than £400 for the Journalists’ Charity.
Weekly newspaper reporter Chris Betteley has been named Journalist of the Year at the 2016 Wales Media Awards.
The Cambrian News journalist was presented with the Award by veteran Welsh broadcaster Vincent Kane, OBE, who held the audience of 200 spellbound with an impassioned rallying call about the role of the media to hold the establishment to account – an address which earned him a standing ovation.
Organised by communications company Spencer David on behalf of the Journalists’ Charity in Wales, the competition attracted almost 240 entries in 19 categories from individual print, online, radio and television journalists and from newspapers, web outlets and broadcasters.
Chris Betteley also won awards for Print News Reporter and Political Reporter at the ceremony in Cardiff and received glowing comments from all the judges.
His news reporting was described as “journalism at its best – tenacious and showing a willingness to take on authority, while he won the political journalist award for his good, sound investigative work. A role model for the classic reporting that is the hallmark of great Welsh journalism.”
Another highly-regarded Welsh broadcaster, Beti George, was honoured with the Outstanding Contribution Award. The citation was given by the Awards host and President of the Journalists’ Charity in Wales, Huw Edwards, who had worked with her in his early career.
Amongst other Awards, the Carmarthen Journal won Weekly Newspaper of the Year and the Western Mail took best Daily or Sunday Newspaper, both sponsored by Western Power Distribution.
For the second year in a row the Caerphilly Observer was awarded Independent Community News Service of the Year, complimented by the judges as “a standard bearer for the need to ensure all communities are represented by vibrant and strong media outlets.”
Scoop of the Year, sponsored by NUJ Training Wales, went to the BBC Cymru Wales’ Week In Week Out programme “Who is sleeping in the next room?”, an expose of how serious offenders were being placed alongside vulnerable young people in mainstream B&B accommodation in South Wales.
It was “a powerful and disturbing hard news investigation, a shocking and chilling expose of a local council’s policy, and a first-class piece of journalism,” said the judges.
The Wales Media Awards were organised with the generous support of a range of sponsors and partners including lead sponsor Comtek, a North Wales based company which provides repairs, spares and support to the telecoms, datacoms, and network service industry.
Category sponsors were Cardiff Metropolitan University (Feature Writer); Effective Communication (News website); Glyndwr University (Young Journalist); NUJ Training (Scoop of the Year); Welsh Government (Business Reporter) and Western Power Distribution (Weekly & Daily Newspaper).
Further support came from Celf Design, Cleartech Live, Daily Post, Natasha Hirst Photography, Orchard Entertainment, Specialist Models and Wales Online.
25 02 2016
The Annual General Meeting of the members of the Charity will be held at St Bride Foundation, Bride Lane, off Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 8EQ on 11th May 2016 at 12.45 pm.
It will be followed by a Special General Meeting when the following amendment to the bylaws will be put to the meeting:
Current bylaw 8.7 – To attend meetings of the council which are held at least 10 times per year. It is expected that at least 40% of meetings are attended unless the council deem there to be exceptional circumstance.
Proposed new bylaw 8.7 – To attend meetings of the council which are held at least 6 times per year. It is expected that at least 50% of meetings are attended unless the council deem there to be exceptional circumstance.
Two pressing concerns for journalists were addressed head on by the Home Secretary, Mrs Theresa May, in a speech at the Journalists’ Charity’s annual reception at the Embassy of Ireland in London.
She gave an assurance that action was being taken to guard against the identification of journalists’ sources, and that there would be new safeguards on the length of time accused people could be held on pre-trial bail without charge.
Mrs May, welcomed by the Ambassador of Ireland Mr Dan Mulhall, complimented the charity on all the work it did to look after journalists who had fallen on hard times or were in need of help.
MPs at Westminster recognised the problem, and the House of Commons shared the concept of helping colleagues in distress, “but we just call it the House of Lords”.
She raised another laugh when describing how gripped she had been by Sunday television viewing on the BBC, “watching all those characters in War and Peace coming out in support of Mother Russia, and not least of all, Andrew Marr interviewing the Labour leader”.
In emphasising the government’s commitment to preserving the freedom of the press, she said ministers acknowledged the concerns of journalists regarding the access to data by the Police, and the fears that this might lead to the identification of journalists’ sources.
Sometimes the Police had to have access, but there had been concerns that the Police had been “a little over zealous” in some of their applications.
Recommendations were made last year by Sir Anthony May, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, and the government would introduce a statutory code of practice. It would be clear in statute that if access to data led to the identification of a journalist’s sources that authority had to be given by a judge, and there would need to be a clear of public interest for that to be possible.
The Home Secretary also recognised that journalists had been among those who had challenged the government on the length of pre-trial bail without charge. The Police needed time to investigate, but it could not be right that people had been on pre-trial bail “not just for months, but sometimes years without being charged, and their life put on hold”.
There would be consultations with the Police, but in the first instance pre-charge bail would be limited to 28 days, but in exceptional cases where charges had not been laid the case would have to go before a judge for judicial oversight.
Mrs May expressed her admiration for the scope of the Journalists’ Charity’s work, and especially its sheltered housing and care home at Dorking. She singled out for praise Marhita Wearing, who at the age of 85, published Trio, the monthly newspaper for the Dorking residents, and the late Betty Titmuss, who was still writing a local newspaper column when she died at the age of 81.
“That desire to search out a story, that desire to entertain, and to fulfil that role with integrity, underpins our free society, and the government is committed to preserving and protecting a free press.”
In her thanks to the Embassy and Home Secretary, the chair of the charity’s trustees Sue Ryan, congratulated Mrs May for being on top form, and for helping to give the annual reception such a buzz.
On arrival at the embassy (20.1.2016), Mrs May had been welcomed by the Ambassador and his wife, Mrs Greta Mulhall, and several journalists noted that the Home Secretary was not wearing her trade mark kitten heels, but boots decorated with diamante heels, which one observant fashion reporter said were the kind worn by the Spice Girls.
The presence of leading politicians at the reception was appreciated by the charity, said Ms Ryan, and Mrs May’s speech had kept up that great tradition. “The Home Secretary always plays it straight, she is always on top of her brief, and when it comes to issues like the snoopers’ charter, she could not have explained it better.”
In opening the proceedings, Mr Mulhall reminded the Home Secretary that the last time she visited the embassy was just over a year ago, to sign a joint UK-Irish visa scheme so that people travelling from China and India could apply to a British or Irish high commission or embassy to get a visa to travel to both countries.
“We jointly issue visas to people to come to these islands and you, Home Secretary, were instrumental in that with our justice minister, a powerful illustration of the new climate of relations between our two countries.”
Given the speculation about the Home Secretary’s position on a possible referendum on UK membership of the European Union, the ambassador steered clear of Westminster politics, but stressed that the Irish people had a genuine hope that the UK would decide to remain in the EU, “whenever the referendum takes place”.
“I say that as a friendly neighbour. Our view is that EU membership is very beneficial for British-Irish relations.”
Mr Mulhall said the Taoiseach had played a helpful role in supporting the request of David Cameron for a reform agenda to enable Britain to remain in the EU.
He admitted he had a personal reason for hoping Britain would not leave the EU. Before becoming ambassador, he had been a press officer for eight years for the Irish government, dealing with journalists in Brussels and Dublin, and that helped explain why he was always delighted to host the Journalists’ Charity’s reception.
“The Irish will continue to be supportive of the British case, and we do hope that you will remain in the EU … otherwise for me, it may be having to host receptions for journalists’ charities in Brussels or Berlin, rather than London.”
Mr Mulhall looked ahead to the centenary commemorations this year for the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, at start of the struggle for Irish independence, and the Battle of Somme, in which so many Irish people fought and died.
“Although the two events changed the course of history, we can view them now with a different set of responses, no longer worried by the friction of the past, and we can do so within a relationship that has never been better, another step on the path to reconciliation.”
Nicholas Jones 21.1.2016
Pictures by Glyn Genin
22 12 2015
Accomplished line-up of readers brought Christmas story to life at journalists’ carol service
With the clarity and pace that was only to be expected from a BBC news reader and presenter, Mishal Husain brought to life Joseph Brodsky’s Christmas Star in her reading at the Journalists’ Charity’s annual carol service at St Bride’s, Fleet Street.
The magic of Twas the Night Before Christmas was captured by the gutsy, characterful narration of Bryony Gordon, columnist and interviewer for Telegraph newspapers.
Their readings were among the highlights of a service that ended with applause for the St Bride’s choir from a packed congregation, and was followed by glasses of wine and mince pies provided the sponsors Luther Pendragon.
Also in a powerful line-up of readers were two editors-in-chief, Katharine Viner (The Guardian) and Tony Gallagher (The Sun), and Alex Brummer, city editor at the Daily Mail.
In her welcome, Beany McLean, director at Luther Pendragon, said their communications consultancy, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year, was proud to organise such a great annual event in aid of the leading charity for journalists. She hoped there would be some generous donations.
“We know that journalists often get criticised, but a thriving news media is good for society, and we recognise that some journalists do fall on hard times.”
Her appeal was echoed by the Rector, the Reverend Canon Dr Alison Joyce, who said it was a great privilege for St Bride’s to host such a popular carol service.
Sue Ryan, chair of the Journalists’ Charity, thanked St Bride’s and Luther Pendragon for once again arranging an event that was so special in the charity’s calendar.
“It may be a long time since any of us worked here, but Fleet Street remains our spiritual home. And St Bride’s will always be the journalists’ church.”
She wondered whether the founders of the original Newspaper Press Fund ever thought their charity would still be going strong 150 years later. “Though as the man who gave us A Christmas Carol had a hand in shaping what we do today, perhaps we should not be so surprised.”
Ms Ryan insisted that while Fleet Street might have grown into the most competitive media industry in the world, it remained a family.
“Like all families we might bicker, argue and compete, but we also care. And when the chips are down, we are there for each other. Which is why the Journalists’ Charity has survived for so long.
“We are a community of very different individuals, but we share a DNA. And the reason there are so many of us in this church tonight is that we love to come together. Journalists enjoy the company of other journalists.”
She recalled that when the NPF was founded there was no such thing as a pension for newspaper workers. It became a lifeline for those who asked for help, and that remained the case today.
“Ours is a trade full of mavericks, gamblers, workaholics – even alcoholics – and it is in our nature to take risks. For some there is a slow descent into chaos, for others life can change dramatically overnight because of an accident, illness, unemployment, or a bereavement. And sometimes the dice just rolls the wrong way.”
Ms Ryan said that like many other charities seeking to raise funds in difficult financial times, the Journalists’ Charity had taken “a good hard look” at its work and expenditure in order to make sure “we are in the best position to carry on for the next 150 years”.
She thanked Associated Newspapers, the Telegraph Media Group, Trinity Mirror and News UK for funding a comprehensive survey of the charity’s operations within the context of the current care industry.
“We are fortunate this year in that the Printing Charity, whose coffers are much deeper than ours, have agreed to pay half of nearly all of our grants. So we are in a position to give more grants to those in need. It’s a message we need to spread.”
Ms Ryan appealed for the help of the wider journalistic community. “We ask you, at a time when compassion is high on the agenda, to be vigilant on behalf of those in need. So often when people do come to us, their situation is desperate.
“It would have been so much better for them practically and their mental health, if they had been referred to us earlier. Most journalists are proud and slow to seek help, so if there are former colleagues that you know of, who are struggling, then tell them to get in touch. We are there to help.
“And it’s not always a financial need. We have spare places in our nursing home where the care is exceptional. They are open to your relatives.”
Nicholas Jones, 22.12.2015
For the fifth year Gorkana have generously agreed to sponsor the charity’s special award to the National Press Awards taking place on March 22 at the Hilton Park Lane – we greatly appreciate their continued support