Thursday, 8 October 2009

Independent editor Roger Alton: 'Five Hard Lessons I've Learnt About Newspapers'

The ever quotable Independent editor Roger Alton tells the latest issue of The Word magazine five hard lessons he's learnt about newspapers. Here is an edited version.

Nothing is for ever, so enjoy it while you can.
Alton notes that his family come from Long Eaton whose local paper, the Long Eaton Advertiser, has closed down. He says now there is no-one to keep an eye on the police, schools, hospitals, crime, mark weddings and anniversaries or celebrate the achievements of local schools or sportsmen. His advice: "It is the hard footslog of the newspaper journalist that keeps us safe, secure (and entertained). So, please treasure the buggers."

Don't get pushed around.
Alton remembers being told by a politician who wanted a story pulled "I should tell you, I know your chairman". Alton says this showed the politician was "an idiot..because anyone with a backbone stiffer than a jellyfish would tell him to piss off. Which I did."

God is in the detail.
Readers won't trust you if you make mistakes. Learn to spell and don't use spell-check. "Spell-check is the sat-nav of language, lazy and prone to getting things wrong," Alton says.

Take things seriously, but don't be solemn.
"If you can't see that Britney shaving her own hair off matters, just as the Budget matters, or Bono, though not necessarily in the same way, you aren't going to enjoy working in newspapers."

Keep Your Distance.
"Journalists should be involved with everything and everyone around them, but not necessarily sleep with them... Right now some of the connections between the News International papers and Cameron's inner circle are too close for comfort...Journalists like to think we're on the main stage: but we're not. we're in the audience."

The Word has an excellent website but does not put its magazine online. To read the full version of Alton's advice you will have to buy a copy of the mag, with money at a newsagent.

1 comment:

Greg Watts said...

Well, I really don't think Britney shaving her hair off does matter. This is pure trivia. A front page story for The Sun maybe, but a non story for any thinking newspaper. Remember the story of the emperor's new clothes?