On Tuesday 20th November, 2018, at 6:30pm a service was held at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street to commemorate all those in the media industry whose mission to bring us the news faces peril and uncertainty and sometimes, tragically, demands the ultimate price.
As consumers of news in a fast-changing world, we demand a great deal of our journalists, correspondents, photographers, sound-crew and camera-crew. We expect them to keep us informed and enlightened about difficult and complex situations in the trouble spots of the world, often at great personal risk, and sometimes, tragically, they pay the ultimate price.
So it is important that, as representatives of the media industry, we honour their memory in this service and remind ourselves of the sacrifice they make in order to bring us the truth.
We commemorate and support, too, the support staff – drivers, translators, fixers – who make it possible for them to carry out their work. But we also come together in celebration of the industry and its achievements. This year we are proud to mark a special anniversary of an institution at the heart of our profession – the Press Association – which has been telling the story of our nation for 150 years.
The Revd Canon Dr Alison Joyce delivered an opening prayer:
in whose perfect realm
no sword is drawn but the sword of justice,
and no strength known but the strength of love:
guide and protect all who seek to bear witness
to the truth of your troubled world;
all who seek to give a voice to the voiceless,
and to tell stories that would otherwise remain untold.
We remember especially this day all members of this profession
who have died, or whose fate is unknown,
that you may bless their work,
and strengthen and sustain those who love them.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Peter Clifton, Editor-in-Chief, Press Association
It is a great honour to be here tonight, and to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in delivering the news from the world’s most perilous places.
I’m also delighted to speak on behalf of all the staff, past and present, in the year of the Press Association’s 150th anniversary.
Folklore has it that a group of cigar-smoking regional newspaper owners hatched the plan for a national news agency while huddled in the back of a Hackney cab on a cold, smoggy, London night in 1868.
It’s certainly a romantic notion, and it may well be nonsense.
It’s impossible to verify, there’s no second source never mind a first one, and there was no massive fuss on Twitter at the time – only, perhaps, the exchange of a telegram or two in due course.
So in classic PA fashion, we won’t go with that story and we’ll stick with what we know to be true.
We don’t know where the cigar-smokers were, but we do know that the agency that emerged over the next couple of years was the work of a small group of journalists who had the great good fortune to have an office directly opposite the main door of the Cheshire Cheese.
And we know those journalists had the same traits that all of us here would still embrace today.
They worked hard for modest reward, they wanted to keep the public informed, they wanted to hold authority to account, they cared about accuracy, and they had integrity.
Of course, some things have changed since those smog-filled days.
PA has had armies of messenger boys scurrying up and down Fleet Street with copy, it’s had aeroplanes dropping photographic plates of the Queen’s wedding by parachute to waiting newspapers, and now our words, pictures, videos and graphics can be sent across the world, and often published immediately, in a split second.
But for all that, some things are as they have always been.
The cornerstones of our content are speed, accuracy, balance and impartiality.
Our stories are verified, and newsrooms know they are good to publish.
And that’s because we have stuck close to those principles for the past 150 years.
In our socially connected world, those principles seem more important than ever.
A wild rumour on social media can be repeated so often it seems true.
Who could ever forget that minor punch-up on the Oxford Circus tube platform that turned into a full scale terror alert, including some C-list pop star cowering in a shop’s changing room saying he could hear shots being fired?
At times like that, and countless others when social media goes into meltdown and 24-hour news platforms are desperate for updates, we need more than ever journalists who can sift the fact from the fake, screen out the noise and find the voices that speak the truth.
I could talk for the rest of the evening about the importance of PA, but, of course, our principles are the principles of any trusted media organisation – national, regional or local.
There may have been bumps along the way, but this remains a profession full of honest, decent people who work way beyond the call of duty every day to find stories and serve their communities by shining a light into the dark corners.
Our industry faces the significant challenge of declining print revenues, and digital services undermined by the enormous amount of advertising revenue being sucked away by social media and search engines.
Great minds are now looking at how this imbalance can be redressed, and no doubt many of us will await with interest the findings of the Cairncross Review into the future of the UK media.
In the meantime, we should draw comfort from the fact that people are still fascinated by what is happening around them.
They might want to consume the news in different ways, but they still want it from organisations they can trust.
We face more pressure than ever from those who dismiss news they don’t like as fake.
So we must re-double our efforts to stand firm, find the truth, champion freedom of speech, challenge authority, serve our audiences, and continue to irritate and undermine those who heap abuse and bile upon us – because they are the real enemies of the people.
Those siren voices ignore that trust in the news media is rising, particularly locally, and is far higher than the trust consumers have in news they search for randomly or find on social media.
I’ll pull out one example, not least because, like us, it is also celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.
The Manchester Evening News has been serving the city with distinction since October 1868. Its coverage of the Arena terror attack and its aftermath in 2017 showed the role a local publisher can play in reporting with calm sensitivity, then taking a pivotal role in the community coming together to build for the future. And it could do all this because it was trusted.
So we must stick to those principles, and know that amid all the noise, confusion and upheaval, our integrity, energy and pursuit of the truth will stand our industry in good stead for the next 150 years.
I am immensely proud of the many current and former colleagues I can see here tonight – the people who do the real work – and also delighted to see so many others here who are such firm friends of the PA.
Put those two groups together, and there could be no finer embodiment of a proud industry – proud of its past achievements, and excited about the increasingly important role we can play in the future.
Alexandra Shulman, Former Editor-in-Chief, Vogue
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Allegra Stratton, National Editor, ITV News read Ephesians 6: 10–20
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.
Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can
extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Thanks be to God.
Chris Evans, Editor, The Telegraph read Armistice Day, 1918 by Robert Graves
What’s all this hubbub and yelling,
Commotion and scamper of feet,
With ear-splitting clatter of kettles and cans,
Wild laughter down Mafeking Street?
O, those are the kids whom we fought for
(You might think they’d been scoffing our rum)
With flags that they waved when we marched off to war
In rapture of bugle and drum.
Now they’ll hang Kaiser Bill from a lamp-post,
Von Tirpitz they’ll hang from a tree. . .
We’ve been promised a “Land Fit for Heroes” –
What heroes we heroes must be!
And the guns that we took from the Fritzes,
That we paid for with rivers of blood,
Look, they’re hauling them down to Old Battersea Bridge
Where they’ll topple them, souse, in the mud!
But there’s old men and women in corners
With tears falling fast on their cheeks,
There’s the armless and legless and sightless –
It’s seldom that one of them speaks.
And there’s flappers gone drunk and indecent
Their skirts kilted up to the thigh,
The constables lifting no hand in reproof
And the chaplain averting his eye…
When the days of rejoicing are over,
When the flags are stowed safely away,
They will dream of another wild “War to End Wars”
And another wild Armistice day.
But the boys who were killed in the trenches,
Who fought with no rage and no rant,
We left them stretched out on their pallets of mud
Low down with the worm and the ant.
The choir & organist of St Bride’s performed the following anthems and songs:-
Psalm 121 – Herbert Howells
Bring us, O Lord God – William Harris
Where have all the flowers gone? – Pete Seeger arr. Adrian Peacock
Agnus Dei from War Requiem – Benjamin Britten
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
Lord of all hopefulness
Ye holy angels bright
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