Saturday 24 October 2009

What the Papers Say: 'You're a traitor'

Newspapers are good at criticising everyone else but notoriously sensitive to criticism themselves - particularly from people who they see as part of their own industry.
I thought this was a relatively recent phenomenon, coinciding with the growth of media correspondents and commentators, who are often ex-editors.
The "ex-editors club" is often the target for venom, particularly from the tabloids when they are under fire.
But reading Harold Evans' biography 'My Paper Chase' reveals the hostile reaction he got from the national press when he was one of the first presenters on Granada's What the Papers Say in the early 1960s.
Evans writes: "My commentary did not win friends in Fleet Street."
The Mirror attacked Evans, then editor of the Darlington-based Northern Echo, in print, saying somewhat snobbishly: "Evans dedicates his spare time to denigrating the rest of the press. Loftily he lectures the national newspapers as if Darlington exudes a special degree of insight and wisdom denied to newspapers in London and Manchester."
Evans tells how he was warned by an editor that some of the "Top Boys" in Fleet Street were upset that "a newspaperman" who was "one of our kind" should be criticising the press on a commercial television company and claimed that he would put some newspapers out of business.
Evans' reaction was: "I had the curious notion that if 'helping newspapers' survive was the criterion, surely improving their performance would help."
He also successfully resisted an attempt by his boss at Westminster Press, which owned the Northern Echo, to ban him from appearing on the programme.

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