- Worship & Ministry
- Visit Us
- INSPIRE! Appeal Listen Online
Journalists' Charity Celebrating 150 Years
1864 - 2014
On Thursday, 20th February, at 11:30am a service of thanksgiving celebrating 150 years of the Journalists' Charity was held at St Bride's Church, Fleet Street.
The Venerable David Meara delivered the bidding:-
One hundred and fifty years ago a group of parliamentary journalists met in a London pub to set up a fund to help their colleagues who had fallen on hard times. The charity they formed was called the Newspaper Press Fund, and one of its founding supporters was the writer and journalist Charles Dickens.
Today, one hundred and fifty years on, the renamed Journalists' Charity is still providing vital help, support and residential care for all who work in the profession of journalism and in all branches of the media. As we celebrate this milestone in the charity's life, we give thanks for its work, for all whom it has supported - (over 2000 journalists in need just over the past ten years), who have fallen victim to ill health, unemployment, infirmity or bad luck.
We celebrate too the profession of journalism which this charity exists to support, and the vital importance of a free press as one of pillars of a democratic society. We salute those who chronicle the rich pageant of human life in this country and across the world, and we ask for God's continued blessing on the work of the Journalists' Charity as we look ahead to the challenges and opportunities of the future.
Listen to Address:
Alex Crawford OBE, Special Correspondent, Sky News
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.
Simon Fox, CEO, Trinity Mirror read Keith Waterhouse on heading to Fleet Street
‘There were pubs, of course – were there not pubs! Fifteen of them in the short stretch between the George at Temple Bar and the Punch Tavern on Ludgate Circus, and twice as many lurking in the narrow thoroughfares behind. A favourite trick, which I was not to fall for, was to bet greenhorns that they could not drink a pint in every Fleet Street pub between lunchtime opening and closing time. Today, when the time came round for my mid-day pint, I ventured into the Bell Tavern, erected by Wren as a hostel for builders reconstructing St Bride’s Church after the Great Fire
St Bride’s, with its arresting steeple, the highest which Wren ever built and which, so the noticeboard informed me, inspired the first tiered wedding cake, was, and still is, the newspaper profession’s church. The dispersal of The Street to Wapping and the Isle of Dogs has strengthened rather than weakened the connection, for nowadays the only time many journalists see their friends and colleagues from other papers is at St Bride’s memorial services. These are touching occasions with lusty hymns and affectionate addresses; invariably one long-retired veteran will murmur to another, “Hardly worth going home again, is it?”
Afterwards, hallowed tradition has it that the mourners repair to El Vino up the street. It must be puzzling to the City whizz-kids and Perrier-sipping members of the Japanese banking community who now patronise this famous old wine bar when, every six months or so, the doors burst open and a phalanx of beefy, red-faced, middle-aged men charge in and, with cries of “It’s what he would have wanted!” bellow for champagne and gin.
I paced between the Embankment and Fetter Lane and between Ludgate Circus and the Law Courts, never suspecting for a second that I was treading the pavements of a typographical Pompeii. While the neighbourhood was still comparatively deserted, like any small town on a Sunday, and although the smell of printers’ ink and metal was at this hour as stale on the air as last night’s beer, there was nevertheless a stirring, a frisson, the first buzz of that excitement that always mounted throughout the day until it came to a climax with a fleet of predominately yellow vans pulling out of Shoe Lane and Bouverie Street and Carmelite Street and Tudor Street and Fetter Lane and heading like a wagon train for the mainline stations.
Feature writers and editors were passing through the handsome entrances of the Telegraph and Express. Copytakers in shiny black suits and Fair Isle pullovers were arriving for work at Reuter’s and the Press Association. Two o’clock and the pub bells were ringing and, with no traffic to deaden the sound, the hum or machinery and the clatter of linotypes could be heard from Geraldine House as the Daily Mirror set up a feature page story or two before the main news started flooding in.
Tomorrow – the heart lurched – maybe they would be setting a feature by me. But tomorrow was still a long way off. This was today. This was The Street – the Street of Ink, the Street of Adventure – and I was over the frontier.’
Paul Dacre, Editor in Chief, Daily Mail read What makes us special by Vincent Mulchrone
It’s like war, of course – 90 per cent sitting on somebody else’s laurels, the rest sheer panic. If, in the panic, you can find the words to convey the blood and sweat of the revolt in Oojiboo, and (which is frequently more difficult) get them back to a sub-editor worried about his train home, then you are a reporter, and the happiest animal on earth.
It is a thrill that lasts clear through to the next issue of the paper. And it is like war in that only the happy moments are retained in the ragbag of memory. The snubs from the great, the terror of not having coped, the other fellow’s scoop, all the group anxieties of the idiot, exacting trade, can be swamped by one good story. Today’s…
Just now and again the huge improbability of the situation strikes home – and you have to hold hard not to yelp aloud with disbelieving delight. Like – well, like thinking about catching the 6.27 home and fetching up instead, at midnight, 30,000ft above Cyprus, listening to George Brown speculating on Labour’s forthcoming majority. (He was out by 40.)
And, for all that, not even listening properly to Mr Brown. Because, farther up the Prime Minister’s plane, Lord Mountbatten’s stockinged feet were sticking out into the aisle. The sleeping Supremo, haggard with grief, was hitch-hiking like the rest of us to the cremation of his old friend Pandit Nehru… Sensible English serge in Delhi’s dust, no time for food, nothing stronger than Coke at the cable office, sweat dripping on to a notebook crammed with jibberish impressions… There must be an adjective that will bring the first par alive. There must. There is. But where is the bastard?
The news story must be the only human activity which demands that the orgasm comes at the beginning.
David Dinsmore, Editor, The Sun read The Greatest Company in the World by William Connor (Cassandra)
I have been on Fleet Street for thirty years and I have never laughed so much. There is no other job like it, so preposterous, so wildly improbable. The task which we impudently assume is to chronicle the whole pageant of life, to record the passing show and then, with unforgivable brazenness, to draw conclusions, to give a verdict and to point the moral. Damn and bless our bloody eyes.
I would never advise anybody to come to Fleet Street. Learning this trade is like learning high diving – minus the water. But I wouldn’t have missed it for all the treasures of Araby. The man who when he was asked what it was like to be in the First World War said: ‘Oh, the noise, and oh, the people!’ You can say the same thing about Fleet Street – ‘Oh, the noise, and oh, the people!’
You can get used to the noise but I’ve never got used to the people. The lovely nuts. The gorgeous crackpots. And all those wonderful, generous, self-derisive folk who spend their lives making dirty great black marks on miles and miles of white paper. Newspaper people are the greatest company in the world. They know but they will never learn. Fleet Street is a pavement where the manhole covers are missing. The aspir¬ants who walk down it are warned by notices which say: CAUTION – MEN WORKING. They stride on and in a trice are below ground. I know. I’ve done it.
Fleet Street is snakes and ladders. Fleet Street is the greasy pole with the old duck pond waiting scummily below if you fall off. I know. I’ve done it. Fleet Street is the slippery slide with the banana skin laid there for all to see. And the saints and sinners go marching on until bingo we all fall down. I know. I’ve done it.
The way to get on in Fleet Street is never let it be known what you want to do. Hide Ambition’s dark face. Never ascend the heights.
The newspaper business, especially in Fleet Street, is over-shadowed by an angry towering mountain with the summit lost in the eternal hostile snows. Way down in the warm valleys below the foothills, life in the print business can be serene and relaxed. The place is stuffed with bee-loud glades where the idle, as well as the able, the incompetent as well as the efficient can relax. The vegetation is thick and the great warm fronds provide shade for those who wish to lie down in the noonday sun. Reporters, sub-editors, feature men and sports writers can all have a relatively pleasant time and, if they wish, can make love to the secretary birds under the kindly foliage.
A little farther up the mountain, the foothills begin and the humming birds are no longer seen. The flowers are still bright, but there is a freshness in the air that old journalists suspect and young ones too often relish. Above the foothills you can see the sky between the trees.
Still farther up, the foliage begins to diminish. There is a nip in the air and old hands shake their heads. The conifers grow shorter and more stunted. The undergrowth thins out. Bushes take the place of trees, and there is little cover under which to hide. But the eager beavers press on. Like young wild pigs they grunt and bolt around, sniffing the freshening wind.
Far below in the valley there were flowers and berries and fruits to be found. Here there is little. Nor is the bark of the trees edible. But still rooting and snorting, the ambitious porkers press on. It is the charge of the Gadarene Swine in reverse – upwards instead of downwards – to disaster.
Above the bushes comes the scree. Above the scree come the boulders. Above the boulders, the snow line. The ambitious journalists have thinned out now. Some are exhausted. Others are killed by their fellows. But here and there a burly brute with a red gleam in a beady angry eye that indicates the fevered image of the Editor’s Chair, still scrambles and scrabbles upwards.
I call them to come back. But it is too late, and as I stumble down the mountain to the softer climes below, I see the last of the Go-Getters, the I-Believe-In-Me mob, struggling ever upwards. Little black dots slowly ascending the North Col.
Ultimately, one of them makes it. O the Power! O the Glory! But they have still reckoned without the Abominable Snow¬man – the mysterious yeti, nine foot tall, covered in silky ginger fur with great gorilla-like feet leaving imprints in the dazzling snow. Sooner or later they meet him face to face, and another familiar mountaineer has the millstone of Editorship around his neck and dies the death. And the faithful Sherpas who always knew that one glance from the Abominable Snowman meant disaster were right.
Editors! I seen ’em come. And I seen ’em go. But way up on the mountain overshadowing Fleet Street the Abominable Snowman goes on for ever.
So, young stranger, my advice is don’t come near us. Don’t come in ‘for the water’s warm’. It’s not, it’s hot. It’s also freezing cold and it’s rough too. But it is the best, the finest, the most furious, the most exciting bath of life that anybody could ever take.
But, for Gawd’s sake, mind the plug ’ole!
Murdoch MacLennan, Chief Executive, Telegraph Media Group read W.F. Deedes Reflects on 70 years as a journalist by Bill Deeds
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.
Other 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.
Simon Callow CBE read Extract from Address to 1865 Festival Dinner by Charles Dickens
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.
I 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.
Conceive 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.
I 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.
The choir & organist of St Bride's performed the following anthems and songs:-
Gloria in Excelsis Deo from Gloria - Vivaldi
Ubi Caritas et Amor - Duruflé
In My Life - Lennon/McCartney arr. Jordan
Libiamo Ne'lieti Calici from La Traviata - Verdi
I Vow To Thee My Country
Dear Lord And Father Of Mankind
He Who Would Valiant Be