Press & media

Goodman, Geoffrey (3 of 9).  Oral History of the British Press

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  • Recording date

    2008-02-18, 2008-02-29, 2008-04-16, 2008-04-28, 2008-05-19, 2008-06-11, 2008-07-07, 2008-07-21

  • Recording locations

    British Library, London

  • Interviewees

    Goodman, Geoffrey, 1922-2013 (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Brodie, Louise (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 3: GG became a junior trainee reporter with the St Pancras Chronicle. It was part time work and training. The "stone" was a long table, in those days with a metal top. GG was sent out on the most marginal stories, the most important being the murder of a shop keeper. This was the beginning of 1939. GG can still see the compositor brooding over the format of the page, setting the type. It was a wonderful moment. More details of the StPC. The hierarchy started with the chief reporter and a chief compositor, who allocated work. One was never allowed to touch the type. The smell of hot metal, of ink and lead is unforgettable. There was a constant clatter of the linotype, and a hammering, pressing the type in place, and shouting. The reporters also shouted from the back bench making sure that the copy reached a particular point. The clinical silence today of bank after bank of computers is quite a revolutionary change. [14:36] GG can't work in an atmosphere of silence now. He became a journalist perhaps because of Leonard Cookson suggesting it, and an aunt too. There happened to be a job going at the StPC. This was the normal avenue to get into the trade at the time, first working for a weekly, evening, daily and so on to the pinnacle of Fleet Street. [21:19] Most of the reporters there during his 18 months, were helpful, but they knew he would be leaving to serve in the war. The first piece he wrote was about building work at the Bedford theatre in Camden High Street. He was helped by the sub editors - what is the article about, where, and so on, must come in the first sentences, an invaluable training. Reporters get irritated by their copy being changed but good sub editors improve your work, particularly when you are working against the clock. Does this really tell the reader what is happening? The sad thing now with a paper like the Daily Telegraph, they do not have any sub editors. Amazing. [30:24] The murder was in the Kentish Town area at a hat shop. There was a break in, and someone was killed. The widow was in a state of hysteria and it was very painful. GG was very young and feels he dealt with it badly. GG's daily round was probably to walk around and look for news if there was nothing to do in the office. There would be a regular contact with the cinemas, and other entertainment listings. They were living in a different age with regular schedules. [37:05] If something happened nationally which would affect Euston and Kings Cross areas, then it would be written up. You had to be careful about the time factor, being a weekly paper. There was no television or commercial radio. The role of the local paper was crucial for community life in the 1930s. The local paper carried advertising. Literacy then among the working class may have been higher than it is today. Reading was a very important element to understand what was going on. The circulation of the StPC was 30-40,000. It was owned by wealthy local figures. The paper was an expression of what was going on in the local area. [45:15] Around Easter 1939, gas masks were being issued. The paper led on this. Euston station was like a Greek temple. For a young child from the provinces it was magnificent. It was a very dominant scene in this part of London. Kings Cross was squalid. At the outbreak of war, there was a huge placard in this station before it was nationalised for the war. Euston was unique in its grandeur. St Pancras station had local trains going into it. They did not appreciate the building then. [52:45] GG had had a sharp change moving into the big city cushioned by the fact that the family living conditions had not changed at all. They were very poor. They moved into Greenland Street at first. His mother had poor health and father was looking for work. GG was trying to study and took part time work to help. GG did not feel it was out of the ordinary. He was reading a lot. The LSE was suggested by GG's school. Camden Town was one of the main spots where Mosley was active. They would stand outside the tube station on Friday nights to sell their paper "Action". GG's political awareness was sharpened. He studied socialist literature. He was lucky to have that opportunity. Further study was an extra burden on his parents, who did not really understand him [1:03:10] It was not an easy relationship with his parents. His parents belonged to a synagogue in Kentish Town. GG went only at festival times. His mother was involved with committee work there. She found living hard. [1:07:53] LSE was a remarkable second home, where GG established friendships, saw the world. Laski was an astonishing lecturer. He would talk about the history and then perhaps digress to American history, and the development of the capitalist system. He talked about world politics. All this was a privilege and had a profound effect on GG. The role of the trade unions was another idea which was structured for GG. It had a great effect. Laski was never a member of the communist party. GG joined the Young Communist party at this time. [1:15:33] GG was aware of the tension in the East End, with its large Jewish population, mainly working class. He might go to the football, at West Ham, or go to Petticoat Lane to saunter along and get a feel for the area beyond Aldgate. Mosley would hold fascist meetings, usually on a Sunday. Post war when GG was covering Mosley's re-emergence, he would cover his meetings with Geoffrey Hamm speaking in the early 1950s. [1:21:47] GG had to produce quite a lot of written work for Laski and it was very carefully marked. They were helpful comments. GG joined the YCs because they seemed to express his feelings. The Labour party was weak and indecisive. The local secretary of the YCs lived on the other side of Park Street. He needed to identify himself with a group. He was aware of the Spanish civil war. Another influence was David Zerember a distant cousin. He was friendly with GGs aunt. He was a founder member of the communist party in 1922. He would go on about the qualities of the Soviet Union and GG was fascinated by this man. He finished up in Brighton. He was an extraordinary figure. [1:30:59] GG was aware of what life had unfairly done to his father and mother. He read Marx which is not easy. His analysis of society seemed to coincide with GGs. The CP should call for the country to go to war. He felt there was no alternative and we should fight Hitler and Mussolini. The domestic scene was bound up with what was going to happen internationally, and after the war something quite different would come.

  • Description

    Life story interview with journalist Geoffrey Goodman

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