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The parish's links with the media go back to the beginning of the sixteenth century when William Caxton's assistant, Wynkyn de Worde, set up his press in a corner of the churchyard. Since then, the area has been associated with printing and publishing and, since the late nineteenth century, newspaper-making.
By 1989, all the national newspapers had decamped to more remote publishing centres; many people at that time feared that the diaspora of the Fourth Estate might result in St Bride's losing its title of the Cathedral of Fleet Street. Some even considered that the great church would lose its parishioners. Fortunately for St Bride's, the national newspapers scattered in every direction rather than congregating in one locality, so that "Fleet Street" remains to this day a generic term for the nation's press. Moreover, the church retains its position as the spiritual home of the media, who are fully committed to its future.
During the Middle East hostage crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s, it hosted all-night vigils for John McCarthy and others, and on their release in 1991 a grand service of celebration was held. There have also been services of commemoration for numerous journalists who have given their lives reporting from war zones and troubled areas around the world, demonstrating St Bride's unique position in international journalism.
Every year we hold a service of commemoration for those journalists who have been killed or held hostage around the world, which is a much-valued gathering point for the industry. We hold regular memorial services for former journalists and Fleet Street executives, and over the years have celebrated the lives of figures such as Clement Freud, Harry Carpenter, Alan Coren, Marie Colvin and Derek Jameson. These are always significant occasions when the Fleet Street tribe gathers to remember their own, and consequently demand much planning and attention to detail.
The Rector of St Bride's is invited to attend media functions and awards ceremonies such as the British Press Awards and the London Press Club Ball, together with Journalists' Charity events and receptions. Another useful networking opportunity is the annual Society of Editors Conference held at a different venue each year. Many of the weddings we celebrate have a media element, as do some of our baptisms. In addition, the Rector is personally available to those in the media who want advice and support, which is particularly vital at a time when the profession is under threat as never before. As the media industry becomes ever more fragmented and technology advances, the challenge will be to remain the spiritual home for a widely dispersed industry and to keep the church engaged with the new technology.