Audio from the St Bride’s Thanksgiving Service

Error: Taxonomy isn`t defined!

If you weren’t lucky enough to attend the recent Journalists’ Charity Thanksgiving Service, held at St. Bride’s Church in Fleet Street on 20th February 2014 in celebration of the charity’s 150th anniversary this year, well no matter – now you can hear the highlights of the service below:

Welcome by the Venerable David Meara

Laurie Upshon, Chairman of the Journalists’ Charity

Simon Fox, Chief Executive of Trinity Mirror read an extract from Streets Ahead by Keith Waterhouse

Paul Dacre, editor-in-chief of the Daily Mail, read from the writings of Vincent Mulchrone

David Dinsmore, editor of The Sun, read from the Greatest Company in the World by William Connor (Cassandra)

Murdoch MacLennan, chief executive of the Telegraph Media Group, read from W.F. Deedes’ reflections on his life as a journalist

Alex Crawford, from Sky News, gave the address

Simon Callow, actor, read an extract from Dickens’ address to the NPF’s second annual festival in May 1865

Channel Four news presenter Jon Snow flew into Birmingham from a filming trip in Greenland – and was immediately signed up as Aston Villa’s new midfield player.  The award winning journalist was special guest speaker at the charity’s annual fund raising lunch held at Villa Park on 28th March. Although he admits he is not a strong football follower, he agreed to don the No 4 shirt presented to him by the club’s managing director Paul Faulkner.

Clare Bramley, the winner bidder star auction prize – United Airlines Business First” flights to New York with three nights at the iconic Waldorf Astoria Hotel -  with Jules Kerby (left) from Hilton Worldwide, Jon Snow and Debbie Cant from United Airlines

Clare Bramley, the winner bidder star auction prize – United Airlines Business First” flights to New York with three nights at the iconic Waldorf Astoria Hotel – with Jules Kerby (left) from Hilton Worldwide, Jon Snow and Debbie Cant from United Airlines

The Midland’s district has been running the celebrity lunches for 25 years and this year’s event, sponsored by solicitors Irwin Mitchell. Other key supporters included flybe (reception sponsors), United Airlines and Hilton Worldwide who, together, provided the start auction prize: a pair of “Business First” tickets from Birmingham to New York and three nights’ stay at the iconic Waldorf Astoria Hotel.  Former Observer News Editor Chris Boffey won a luxury break in Ireland, courtesy of Tourism Ireland.

District chairman Steve Dann confirmed the lunch had raised raised more than £12,000.

It also raised some eyebrows, too, when Jon Snow spoke his attraction to the opposite sex and why he doesn’t wear a poppy on screen in November.  Questioned by the BBC Nick Owen on recently quoted remarks that he applies a “do I fancy her test” when meeting a woman for the first time, he said:

“What is biology about if it is not the sexes being attracted to each other?

“It was what men did even if it was a kind of subliminal moment instantly banished … and if it isn’t it is love!

“To deny attraction is absurd.”

Snow also defended his decision not to wear a poppy on screen during the remembrance period.

Paul Willoughby (Flybe – reception sponsor), Jon Snow, Steve Dann (Midlands Chairman)

Paul Willoughby (Flybe – reception sponsor), Jon Snow, Steve Dann (Midlands Chairman)

Jon Snow with Villa shirt

Jon Snow with Villa shirt

He said he did wear a poppy to church but did not believe in displaying any emblem on television.  The dead did not fight for freedom for us to insist that emblems must be worn,” he said.

To a question from a student about getting about getting on in journalism, he responded:  “Build up a body of experience and work. The fact of the matter is for all our efforts you can’t teach journalism, although I’m getting better as I get older and it’s a very rare thing to better at anything as you get older. You get better at honing things down. But if you’re inquisitive, if you have the capacity to write and express yourself either for broadcast or the written word, the web or whatever, you’ve got a gift.”

On his taste for colourful clothes, particularly ties and socks, he said:

“… I think if you’re going to wear a tie you should wear a tie. What is the point – and I don’t want to be disrespectful to anybody, but what is the point of wearing some old maroon rag. What does it say? It says ‘I’m actually a bit tedious, I’m terribly sorry’! I would never wear one other than the job, or to appear publicly as it were. Also, men of a certain age can look totally ridiculous – the open neck shirt can look a little bit revealing you know.”

Steve Dann (Midlands Chairman), Jon Snow, Chris Rawstron (Irwin Mitchell –Main sponsor), Laurie Upshon

Steve Dann (Midlands Chairman), Jon Snow, Chris Rawstron (Irwin Mitchell –Main sponsor), Laurie Upshon


John Featherstone, former Trustee for North West, Jane Armes, Jean Featherstone, Michelle Orson, Gerry Armes (Midlands President)

Returning to football, he said he was a Brighton and Hove Albion fan – although he’d never seen them play.  “I’m not really a football person although I know a certain amount about it,” he said.

“I once had to interview Sir Alex Ferguson and it was a blessing not to be a football person as I had a better interview with him – though I say it myself – than anybody else did because it didn’t matter to me that I would never speak to him again! Of course it does matter to any football correspondent that you can’t ask him how on earth he ever dared ban the BBC for seven long years. It was a complete scandal and it was because they’d dared make a programme about a bit of dodgy dealing involving his son.”

The Midlands district’s next fund raiser is a lunch with Fern Britton on 16th October. Further details will be announced soon.

Strident, opinionated and often controversial, Richard Littlejohn likes a debate.

As a journalist, author, broadcaster and in recent years a columnist for the Daily Mail, he has built a career out of telling it as he sees it. The result is that he has been recognised in the Press Gazette Newspaper Hall of Fame as one of the most influential journalists of the past 40 years.

Richard is also an Ambassador and keen supporter of the Journalists’ Charity and he will be our guest speaker for our next event in Cardiff on 20th May – where we are sure to have a lively evening with a short speech – and long Q and A.

This is our second fund-raiser in Wales since we established a new branch in the principality and it follows the great success of our first event – a curry night – in the New Year.

We will also be announcing details of our revival of the Wales Media Awards – the first such for 15 years – to be held in 2015.

This event is at Le Monde, in St.Mary Street, Cardiff (http://www NULL.le-monde starting at 7.30. Tickets are £15 per head and they are sure to sell fast.

Buy Tickets

Royal Ascot at York June 2005The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are to attend a special reception to mark the 150th anniversary of the Journalists’ Charity. The reception will be held at the historic Stationers’ Hall in the City of London on May 7th.

The Queen is the charity’s patron.

The charity has strong historic “Royal” links. Queen Victoria supported the charity and granted the Royal Charter, then called the Newspaper Press Fund, in 1890. She also approved the setting up of a “Victoria Pension” for widows.  Her youngest son the Duke of Albany chaired the charity appeal in 1882 and grandson Prince Arthur was chairman in 1913.  King George V became patron of the Fund in 1921 and the Queen’s father, the Duke of Wales, chaired the 1930 appeal. In his speech he said: “I know what difficulties the reporter has to meet. He is frequently working when the rest of mankind is playing or sleeping; he is out in all weathers trying to obtain stories which everyone seems to be conspiring to keep from him.”  He took over as patron when he became king in 1936.

Chairman of the Trustees Laurie Upshon said: “It is a great honour that the Queen and Prince Philip have agreed to take part in our anniversary celebrations. We are also very grateful for the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers for allowing us to use the Hall for this very special occasion.”

Space at the reception will be very limited but we have reserved a number of invitations for members. These will be allocated by ballot. If you would like to take part in the ballot, please send your letter of interest to David Ilott, the Charity’s Director, at Dickens House, 35 Wathen Road, Dorking, RH4 1JY, by 18th April. We know demand will be strong so we will only be able to notify those selected by ballot.

Image kindly donated by Mirrorpix

Laurie Upshon, Philippa Kennedy and Cheryl Douglas ( Gorkana Group)

Laurie Upshon, Philippa Kennedy and Cheryl Douglas ( Gorkana Group)


Fleet Street veteran Philippa Kennedy is the winner of the Journalists’ Charity special award for 2014.  The honour was announced at the National Press Awards at Marriot Hotel in Grosvenor Square, London, on 1st April.  The event is organised by the Society of Editors and the award is sponsored by media database specialists Gorkana. The winner is selected by the Society’s Trustees and reflects a unique contribution to journalism or to the charity’s work.  Philippa has been chairman of the London Press Ball since 2005 when she revived the event as a fund-raiser for the charity.  The award recognised her role in raising more than £200,000 during that time.

Philippa entered journalism under the Daily Mirror training scheme. She was editor of the Press Gazette from 1998 to 2002 and her career in Fleet Street spanned 25 years. She was a reporter on the Sun for seven before joining the Daily Express where she stayed for 14 years, becoming the paper’s first woman news editor and later the paper’s chief feature writer and columnist.

She became a director of the London Press Club in 2001 and was elected Deputy Chairman in 2003.

One of the original panel of the popular lunchtime show Loose Women, she also presented the media show – Media Brief – for BBC News 24 and BBC1, a three-part history of Fleet Street – Out of Print –  and a two parter on the regional press – Read All About It – for BBC Radio 4.

“I’m very touched and honoured.  This is most unexpected but I’m very happy to accept it on behalf of the London Press Ball committee who have worked so hard to raise money for the Journalists’ Charity over the past 10 years. Although I’ve stepped down as chair  I will carry on supporting the charity and hope that the ball goes on from strength to strength.  Ours is a precarious business as we all know, so it’s comforting to know that the charity is there to help when it’s needed.”

Philippa was awarded an OBE in 2003 for services to journalism.


Many of Britain’s top media names have signed up  as “Ambassadors” to help the Charity in our anniversary year. Lord Black of Brentwood, Executive Director of the Daily Telegraph, has kindly agreed to be our anniversary appeal chairman. In addition leading journalists from print, broadcasting and online have lent their names to support the charity’s work…and the list is still growing. Current Ambassadors are:

Anniversary Ambassadors

Baron Black of Brentwood

Mr George Alagiah
Mr Peter Allen
Mr Mark Austin
Mr Neil Benson
Mr Chris Blackhurst
Mr Jeremy Bowen
Mr Robin Burgess
Ms Alex Crawford
Mr Paul Dacre
Mr Mike Darcey
Mr Ben De Pear
Mr David Dinsmore
Mr Huw Edwards
Ms Julie Etchingham
Ms Lynn Faulds Wood
Mr Simon Fox
Mr Geordie Greig
Mr Jonathan Grun
Mr Geoff Hill
Mr John Humphrys
Mr Martin Ivens
Mr Adrian Jeakins
Mr Michael Jermey

Mr Trevor Kavanagh
Ms Martha Kearney
Ms Philippa Kennedy
Ms Christina Lamb
Mr Richard Littlejohn
Mr Ian MacGregor
Mr Barry McIlheney
Mr Andrew Miller
Ms Sarah Montague
Mr Jonathan Munro
Mr Dermot Murnaghan
Mr Jim Naughtie
Ms Cathy Newman
Ms Mary Nightingale

Mr Jeremy Paxman
Mr Robert Peston
Ms Sophie Raworth
Mr Richard Sambrook
Mr Bob Satchwell

Mr Jon Snow
Mr John Stapleton
Mr Alastair Stewart
Mr Geoff Sutton
Sir Ray Tindle
Mr Justin Webb
Mr Hugh Whittow
Mr John Witherow
Mr Peter Wright




Richard Walker (branch chairman), Bill Leckie (Master of Ceremonies) Margaret Morrison (organising Committee) and James Lland (event producer).

More than 200 journalists and public relations executives turned up at Glasgow’s Radisson Blu Hotel on 1st March for the annual West of Scotland Press Ball.


Herald & Times Editors Tony Carlin (Evening Times); Magnus Llewellin (Herald), Richard Walker (Sunday Herald and branch chairman)

The Ball, sponsored by Camelot, raised nearly £15,000 for the Journalists’ Charity. Richard Walker, the Editor of the Sunday Herald and Chairman of the West of Scotland branch of the charity, was the main speaker.

Broadcaster and journalist Bill Leckie was Master of Ceremonies.


Denny Macgee and main raffle prize winner Matty Sutton (Evening Times)

The main money-spinner was a popular raffle with a top prize of a pair of tickets to Los Angeles, donated by British Airways, and won by Matty Sutton a reporter on the Evening Times.


Denny Macgee (British Airways) and Mary MacGee.

The West of Scotland has been one of the charity’s main fundraisers for many years and the Ball is one of the year’s major highlights.




Audio Now Available!All I see is this huge sea of people – many of them titans of our profession. You can understand how frightening that is!

Its like when I was being interviewed for a BBC job, there’s that many people in the room….

I can see people I trained with on my local newspaper – the Wokingham Times. I always feel the need to say “hail Adam Mackinlay” at this point as he was the editor who took me on as an eighteen-year-old when no-one else would.

Everyone needs an Adam Mackinlay and he would not want me to be frightened.

He came from the school of journalism where it was obligatory to say – at least once a day to your staff – you’re lucky to have this job!

I had to go in and negotiate with him as Mother of the Chapel – in the days when we had things called unions – and try to get him to pay reporters who covered evening council meetings or theatres and film reviews, the sum of something like 4.50 for an evening meal.

And his bargaining point was: but you LIKE doing it…… yes Adam, you’re right we do LIKE our job. It’s the best in the world.

i see those i trained with from the BBC who’re now running the Corporation, a lot of my colleagues, my bosses, my former bosses, …journalists I’ve never met but who I feel like i know,  And some of the many mentors who’ve guided me through the years – as well as a lot of my competitors – and numerous journalists I can only aspire to be as good as.  There have been quite a lot of Adam Mackinlays.

We are a tribe, a big family, with lots of different branches with our own strengths and weaknesses…. I live with a newspaper reporter who’s spent the best part of 25 years sucking in his breath and saying….You’d never get away with that on newspapers’ – and – ooooh, that wouldn’t happen on Fleet Street you know…

We ARE different – and there are definitely advantages to being able to hide behind a newspaper column or a radio voice. I was a starry junior working for BBC Radio Nottingham when I realized this to my cost. My task was to go out and interview Nottinghamshire’s supposedly last remaining farrier.

I spoke to him several times on the phone and he sounded very excited at the prospect of meeting me. I was sent out – having just got my driving licence – at the wheel of the Radio Car, which was like something out of Back To The Future. I was told… just press this button and it’ll send up this massive, fifteen foot mast into the air. I went off with the sage advice…try not to park under a tree… ringing in my ears.

Finally I turned up at this guy’s farm and he was waiting for me in the drive, visibly excited. But, as I stepped out of the car, his face changed to one of deep, unrestrained disappointment.

“Are YOU Alex?” he said, “are you Alex Crawford?’ I confirmed I was indeed the 20-year-old broadcasting legend.

‘Oh my lord,’ he said… or something like that… “you certainly don’t LOOK like you sound.’

And if that wasn’t enough to crush my ego…there was this from another listener who wrote on March 26, 1980 something …” Alex Crawford, I have to turn the radio down as low as possible, or off ,to hide your high-pitched, adolescent, shrill, semi-hysterical, tuneless, toneless, whining voice.”

If Mr B Denton of Carlton is out there somewhere, thank you for your feedback.

We journalists are all different, a very different community of individuals, with different DNA to much of humankind. We’re designed to challenge, to push, to dig, to question, to irritate, to run TOWARDS danger and confrontation rather than away from it – and, when we’re not tearing each other apart limb from limb, we do have fun together.

I’ve had desperate and competitive rivals risk their lives for me, others who’ve jeopardized their careers to help out a fellow journalist in need. There’s a bond that ties us all together – despite the tribal fighting which has recently been reaching self-destruct proportions.

Yes, there might be the occasional name-calling. But it’s  because we have an underlying respect for each other that the worst we can manage is referring to our rivals as either “muppets” or even “fraggles”.  Jeez – blood-curdling.

Whether you are a muppet OR a fraggle, we have a lot in common…..and maybe, sometimes,  we should just remember why we became journalists in the first place.

You might find that Adam Boulton and Ben De Pear both became members of this fantastic profession for the same reasons….and they are the same as Paul Dacre and Alan Rusbridger …….and that John Ryley and James Harding – and David Dinsmore and Jon Snow, were all drawn to the industry with similar desires, plans and ambitions…… To make a difference,  to have adventures, to expose lies, to hold Governments to account, to bear witness, to take on authorities all over the world, to educate, entertain, enchant, enthrall…… To have fun – because this job — our job – is fun and exciting…and its also often dangerous – whether its in the boardroom, the newsroom, a Parliamentary sub committee or the battlefield….. But we get to talk to Presidents and Prisoners, rebels and renegades. We can be face to face with evil, yet witness incredible heroism ………

We might have changed along the way and many of you here are now at the height of your careers, in charge of newsrooms and corporations, television channels and newspapers  - but take time now to remember what brought you to this point…..

It wasn’t money I bet, nor fame, nor medals or awards…. It was because very early on when you were working for your student newspaper or your local radio station, you realized journalists had a loud voice – and it was good to be heard – and you could make a difference.

Intoxication is everywhere in this game.

Recently I was invited on to Newsnight, when I think I achieved the rare distinction of being Paxoed and Mackenzied in the same conversation.

It was my job to defend foreign reporting, “this stuff” according to the former Sun editor, who seems to believe overseas coverage is what begins at the bottom of his garden.

He appeared to think you needed to pack a pith helmet and fly swatter before embarking to far-flung places as “Nuneaton, Preston or Glasgow.”

Well, I’ve got news which may well be foreign to him. “You’re wrong, Kelvin”, – now THAT’S not a phrase that was heard much around Wapping in the 80s.

Not everyone is the reactionary, insular and frankly depressing character you make our UK people out to be, though ONE does come immediately to mind. But, despite all that, I forgive you Kelvin, you little fraggle.

I KNOW there are plenty of people who ARE interested, about matters both here and abroad…. And rather than becoming LESS interested, they are MORE so.

I’m often asked about bravery and the courage of foreign correspondents who travel to wars and disasters.

To me bravery is taking on the establishment and the expenses department, as much as dictators abroad. Bravery is not – as some people seems to think – the defining quality of the war correspondent. Bravery comes in little acts achieved in every job or life, every day.

Bravery in our profession is the editor who trusts his or her journalists in the field when everyone else is screaming otherwise. It’s standing up to the accountants who say we can’t afford to cover that genocide, or that natural disaster.

Bravery is being prepared to go head to head with not only your own Government but that of several others by exposing the real extent of one nation’s surveillance and snooping.

Bravery is knowing you’re guaranteed unpopularity but printing or broadcasting anyway because you KNOW it is the right thing to do.

Today new technology is moving so fast that last week I could broadcast live from a canoe in the Congo River Basin about elephant poaching (and that is definitely a sentence I thought I would never use),  while my peers were reporting live from helicopters over the floods in Britain or live behind the barricades of Kiev.

We find we’re trying to beat a 69-character message which can be delivered in seconds, often by unqualified, ill-informed, very partisan participants. But despite enormous pressure, most journalists go that extra mile to search out truth, and to take the consequences of being staunchly impartial.

And it’s journalists who’ve made a difference….showing the effect of chemical weapons in Syria; the torture of the Tamils in Sri Lanka, match fixing in cricket or the expenses scandal in Westminster… It’s journalists who can supply the evidence to change a Government’s direction, who can topple dictators – who still remain important, essential pillars of democracy, freedom and justice.

Lets not be deluded that the British public are only interested in Celebrity Big Brother, Benefits street or who Sienna Millar is sleeping with….. They simply aren’t.

Social media, twitter and digital technology have made the world a whole lot smaller and accessible – and made us all MORE concerned about the killing of children in the Central African Republic…. and more empathetic about the typhoon in the Philippines…. not less.

And I KNOW just how much we are valued, by the reaction out in the field. I once walked miles over an Afghan mountainside to meet a Taliban unit – and when their hooded chief with his AK47 met me; the first thing he said was: ‘Thank you. Thank you for coming to talk to us and hearing OUR side.’

Some of you will know that feeling of walking into a refugee camp – I experienced it again just a few weeks ago in the Central African Republic – and being surrounded by desperate people clinging onto you, all suddenly filled with hope because YOU’VE walked in with a notebook and a camera crew – and they know their story is now going to be heard – and maybe – just maybe – help will arrive.

And its then you’re reminded again of just how privileged we are to have this job – and what a responsibility it is to do it well.

So please don’t tell me the public are not interested in hearing about the killings and torture in Syria, if you don’t cover it. Foreign news, any news, IS expensive – and there are massive risks – but do we really believe twitter and citizen journalism is where we are headed?

They can never replace an experienced and questioning journalist in the field..

And more to the point, the public KNOW the difference. We just have to embrace and move with these evolving ways of delivering and collecting the news – and let it enhance, not take over or replace…..

We have to also recognize and applaud the sacrifices that many of our number make in doing this job….  And the sacrifices our families and those who love us also endure….

The Journalists Charity looks after those of us who after a life in the best job ever, fall on hard times – through mistakes, through illness, through old age or just through bad luck.  Through being a journalist.

Because there by the grace of God go all of us. We are mainly mavericks and troublemakers, gamblers, workaholics and risk-takers. Sometimes the dice just rolls the wrong way.

We continue to lose far too many of our colleagues through murder, kidnap or jail – for being journalists. Think today of the Al Jazeera journalists still incarcerated in Cairo for simply doing their jobs…. for going to those dark and violent places where mayhem and anarchy are flourishing and which we would not know about – but for them.

They didn’t want us to forget – so we should never let their lights dim.

Lets remember those members of our extended family like Marie Colvin, Tim Heatherington, Mick Deane and so many others who died doing this incredible job.

They weren’t frightened.

Audio Now Available!

Extract from Dickens’ Address to 1865 Festival Dinner

By Charles Dickens

Read by Simon Callow, Actor

At the second annual dinner of the Institution, held at the Freemasons’ Tavern, on Saturday, the 20th May, 1865, the following speech was delivered by the chairman, Mr. Charles Dickens, in proposing the toast of the evening:

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, – When a young child is produced after dinner to be shown to a circle of admiring relations and friends, it may generally be observed that their conversation – I suppose in an instinctive remembrance of the uncertainty of infant life – takes a retrospective turn. As how much the child has grown since the last dinner; what a remarkably fine child it is, to have been born only two or three years ago, how much stronger it looks now than before it had the measles, and so forth. When a young institution is produced after dinner, there is not the same uncertainty or delicacy as in the case of the child, and it may be confidently predicted of it that if it deserve to live it will surely live, and that if it deserve to die it will surely die. The proof of desert in such a case as this must be mainly sought, I suppose, firstly, in what the society means to do with its money; secondly, in the extent to which it is supported by the class with whom it originated, and for whose benefit it is designed; and, lastly, in the power of its hold upon the public. I add this lastly, because no such institution that ever I heard of ever yet dreamed of existing apart from the public, or ever yet considered it a degradation to accept the public support.

Now, what the Newspaper Press Fund proposes to do with its money is to grant relief to members in want or distress, and to the widows, families, parents, or other near relatives of deceased members in right of a moderate provident annual subscription – commutable, I observe, for a moderate provident life subscription – and its members comprise the whole paid class of literary contributors to the press of the United Kingdom, and every class of reporters. The number of its members at this time last year was something below 100. At the present time it is somewhat above 170, not including 30 members of the press who are regular subscribers, but have not as yet qualified as regular members. This number is steadily on the increase, not only as regards the metropolitan press, but also as regards the provincial throughout the country.

Simon Callow's Reading at the St Bride's Thanksgiving ServiceI have observed within these few days that many members of the press at Manchester have lately at a meeting expressed a strong brotherly interest in this Institution, and a great desire to extend its operations, and to strengthen its hands, provided that something in the independent nature of life assurance and the purchase of deferred annuities could be introduced into its details, and always assuming that in it the metropolis and the provinces stand on perfectly equal ground. This appears to me to be a demand so very moderate, that I can hardly have a doubt of a response on the part of the managers, or of the beneficial and harmonious results. It only remains to add, on this head of desert, the agreeable circumstance that out of all the money collected in aid of the society during the last year more than one-third came exclusively from the press.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, in regard to the last claim – the last point of desert – the hold upon the public – I think I may say that probably not one single individual in this great company has failed to-day to see a newspaper, or has failed to-day to hear something derived from a newspaper which was quite unknown to him or to her yesterday. Of all those restless crowds that have this day thronged the streets of this enormous city, the same may be said as the general gigantic rule. It may be said almost equally, of the brightest and the dullest, the largest and the least provincial town in the empire; and this, observe, not only as to the active, the industrious, and the healthy among the population, but also to the bedridden, the idle, the blind, and the deaf and dumb. Now, if the men who provide this all-pervading presence, this wonderful, ubiquitous newspaper, with every description of intelligence on every subject of human interest, collected with immense pains and immense patience, often by the exercise of a laboriously-acquired faculty united to a natural aptitude, much of the work done in the night, at the sacrifice of rest and sleep, and (quite apart from the mental strain) by the constant overtasking of the two most delicate of the senses, sight and hearing – I say, if the men who, through the newspapers, from day to day, or from night to night, or from week to week, furnish the public with so much to remember, have not a righteous claim to be remembered by the public in return, then I declare before God I know no working class of the community who have.

It would be absurd, it would be impertinent, in such an assembly as this, if I were to attempt to expatiate upon the extraordinary combination of remarkable qualities involved in the production of any newspaper. But assuming the majority of this associated body to be composed of reporters, because reporters, of one kind or other, compose the majority of the literary staff of almost every newspaper that is not a compilation, I would venture to remind you, if I delicately may, in the august presence of members of Parliament, how much we, the public, owe to the reporters if it were only for their skill in the two great sciences of condensation and rejection.

st-brides-thanksgiving-service-image006Conceive what our sufferings, under an Imperial Parliament, however popularly constituted, under however glorious a constitution, would be if the reporters could not skip. Dr. Johnson, in one of his violent assertions, declared that “the man who was afraid of anything must be a scoundrel, sir.” By no means binding myself to this opinion – though admitting that the man who is afraid of a newspaper will generally be found to be rather something like it, I must still freely own that I should approach my Parliamentary debate with infinite fear and trembling if it were so unskilfully served up for my breakfast. Ever since the time when the old man and his son took their donkey home, which were the old Greek days, I believe, and probably ever since the time when the donkey went into the ark – perhaps he did not like his accommodation there – but certainly from that time downwards, he has objected to go in any direction required of him – from the remotest periods it has been found impossible to please everybody.

I do not for a moment seek to conceal that I know this Institution has been objected to. As an open fact challenging the freest discussion and inquiry, and seeking no sort of shelter or favour but what it can win, it has nothing, I apprehend, but itself, to urge against objection. No institution conceived in perfect honesty and good faith has a right to object to being questioned to any extent, and any institution so based must be in the end the better for it. Moreover, that this society has been questioned in quarters deserving of the most respectful attention I take to be an indisputable fact. Now, I for one have given that respectful attention, and I have come out of the discussion to where you see me. The whole circle of the arts is pervaded by institutions between which and this I can descry no difference.

The painters’ art has four or five such institutions. The musicians’ art, so generously and charmingly represented here, has likewise several such institutions. In my own art there is one, concerning the details of which my noble friend the president of the society and myself have torn each other’s hair to a considerable extent, and which I would, if I could, assimilate more nearly to this. In the dramatic art there are four, and I never yet heard of any objection to their principle, except, indeed, in the cases of some famous actors of large gains, who having through the whole period of their successes positively refused to establish a right in them, became, in their old age and decline, repentant suppliants for their bounty.

Is it urged against this particular Institution that it is objectionable because a parliamentary reporter, for instance, might report a subscribing M.P. in large, and a non-subscribing M.P. in little? Apart from the sweeping nature of this charge, which, it is to be observed, lays the unfortunate member and the unfortunate reporter under pretty much the same suspicion – apart from this consideration, I reply that it is notorious in all newspaper offices that every such man is reported according to the position he can gain in the public eye, and according to the force and weight of what he has to say. And if there were ever to be among the members of this society one so very foolish to his brethren, and so very dishonourable to himself, as venally to abuse his trust, I confidently ask those here, the best acquainted with journalism, whether they believe it possible that any newspaper so ill-conducted as to fail instantly to detect him could possibly exist as a thriving enterprise for one single twelvemonth? No, ladies and gentlemen, the blundering stupidity of such an offence would have no chance against the acute sagacity of newspaper editors. But I will go further, and submit to you that its commission, if it be to be dreaded at all, is far more likely on the part of some recreant camp-follower of a scattered, disunited, and half-recognized profession, than when there is a public opinion established in it, by the union of all classes of its members for the common good: the tendency of which union must in the nature of things be to raise the lower members of the press towards the higher, and never to bring the higher members to the lower level.

I hope I may be allowed in the very few closing words that I feel a desire to say in remembrance of some circumstances, rather special, attending my present occupation of this chair, to give those words something of a personal tone. I am not here advocating the case of a mere ordinary client of whom I have little or no knowledge. I hold a brief to-night for my brothers.

I went into the gallery of the House of Commons as a parliamentary reporter when I was a boy not eighteen, and I left it – I can hardly believe the inexorable truth – nigh thirty years ago. I have pursued the calling of a reporter under circumstances of which many of my brethren at home in England here, many of my modern successors, can form no adequate conception.

Simon Callow reading at the St Bride's Thanksgiving ServiceI have often transcribed for the printer, from my shorthand notes, important public speeches in which the strictest accuracy was required, and a mistake in which would have been to a young man severely compromising, writing on the palm of my hand, by the light of a dark lantern, in a post-chaise and four, galloping through a wild country, and through the dead of the night, at the then surprising rate of fifteen miles an hour.

The very last time I was at Exeter, I strolled into the castle yard there to identify, for the amusement of a friend, the spot on which I once “took,” as we used to call it, an election speech of my noble friend Lord Russell, in the midst of a lively fight maintained by all the vagabonds in that division of the county, and under such a pelting rain, that I remember two goodnatured colleagues, who chanced to be at leisure, held a pocket-handkerchief over my notebook, after the manner of a state canopy in an ecclesiastical procession.

I have worn my knees by writing on them on the old back row of the old gallery of the old House of Commons; and I have worn my feet by standing to write in a preposterous pen in the old House of Lords, where we used to be huddled together like so many sheep – kept in waiting, say, until the woolsack might want re-stuffing.

Returning home from excited political meetings in the country to the waiting press in London, I do verily believe I have been upset in almost every description of vehicle known in this country. I have been, in my time, belated on miry by-roads, towards the small hours, forty or fifty miles from London, in a wheelless carriage, with exhausted horses and drunken postboys, and have got back in time for publication, to be received with never-forgotten compliments by the late Mr. Black, coming in the broadest of Scotch from the broadest of hearts I ever knew.

Ladies and gentlemen, I mention these trivial things as an assurance to you that I never have forgotten the fascination of that old pursuit. The pleasure that I used to feel in the rapidity and dexterity of its exercise has never faded out of my breast. Whatever little cunning of hand or head I took to it, or acquired in it, I have so retained as that I fully believe I could resume it to-morrow, very little the worse from long disuse.

To this present year of my life, when I sit in this hall, or where not, hearing a dull speech, the phenomenon does occur – I sometimes beguile the tedium of the moment by mentally following the speaker in the old, old way; and sometimes, if you can believe me, I even find my hand going on the table-cloth, taking an imaginary note of it all. Accept these little truths as a confirmation of what I know; as a confirmation of my undying interest in this old calling. Accept them as a proof that my feeling for the location of my youth is not a sentiment taken up to-night to be thrown away to-morrow – but is a faithful sympathy which is a part of myself. I verily believe – I am sure – that if I had never quitted my old calling I should have been foremost and zealous in the interests of this Institution, believing it to be a sound, a wholesome, and a good one. Ladies and gentlemen, I am to propose to you to drink “Prosperity to the Newspaper Press Fund,” with which toast I will connect, as to its acknowledgment, a name that has shed new brilliancy on even the foremost newspaper in the world – the illustrious name of Mr. Russell.

Audio Now Available!

70 years as a journalist

By W. F. Deedes

Read by Murdoch MacLennan, chief executive of the Telegraph Media Group

Bliss it was in the summer of 1931 to have a job – any job; for the number of unemployed had climbed to 2.71 million. But to be a newspaper reporter was very heaven!

The world was in turmoil. Within days of my joining the Morning Post, Britain faced bankruptcy, Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour government fell, and an all-party coalition under pressure from King George V was cobbled together to deliver us.

“Go and watch the crowds in Downing Street,” they told me. “Don’t write anything, old boy, just useful experience.” So it was. I had never reported anything in my life. Why was I there? The Morning Post, feeling its age, had decided to recruit a few young reporters. I was among them.

It was three days before I got anything into the paper. Late one evening, the deputy news editor handed me a small newspaper item reporting that the Indian Rope Trick had been performed at Cheltenham before the International Brotherhood of Magicians. He instructed me to ring Jasper Maskelyne, the well-known conjuror and discuss it.

I trembled at the thought of inviting such a celebrity to talk to me, but he was happy to explain at length why the trick was a myth. My story appeared. I was “in”.

On a higher plane, the pound was devalued by 30 per cent and all public pay cut, leading to riots in London and a brief mutiny in the Navy at Invergordon, where ratings found themselves down to 25 shillings a week.

In the General Election of that October, an anxious nation gave the new coalition 554 seats and Labour just 56 seats. For my miscellaneous duties during that one-sided event, the Morning Post awarded me £5 a week, good pay then for a young chap “on space”, which meant being paid only for copy that got into the paper.

Murdoch MacLennan reading at the St Bride's Thanksgiving ServiceOther sensations coloured that summer, such as a violent mutiny at Dartmoor prison, which I longed to cover. More than any other event, it determined me to become the sort of reporter they might send on such a terrific story.

In the weeks that followed, reporting duties required me to meet Gandhi – that story didn’t get in – and the Prince of Wales. I travelled across the Drury Lane stage in the London bus that featured in Noel Coward’s Cavalcade, wrote stories about cat shows, Whipsnade Zoo, London fires and riots and the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussaud’s, where I volunteered to spend a night.

Nothing serious came my way until self-government for India became a big political issue in the early 1930s, and I was required to ferret out the divisions this created within the Tory party. It led to encounters with Winston Churchill, who led Tory opposition to Indian reform, and his irascible son Randolph.

In their kindly way, senior staff at the Morning Post sometimes went through my copy with me, rather as tutors treat student essays, so replacing at least part of the university education I lost after my father got caught in the Wall Street crash of 1929.

For major events, such as the stunning Silver Jubilee of King George V, which I reported from the Mall, there was a seat in the stalls. A modest man, the King was bewildered by the cheering.

After the marriage of Prince George, Duke of Kent to Princess Marina of Greece, a few of us joined their royal train to report cheering crowds that gathered at every station, as they travelled to Birmingham for the start of their honeymoon at Himley Hall.

Yes, those were different days.

Copyright 2013 Journalists Charity