Press & media

Goodman, Geoffrey (5 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 5: GG’s first job with the Manchester Guardian was as a reporter for the London Letter. Details of other personnel there. Henry Fairley, Iain Hamilton and he became good friends. The LL was a daily diary. GG covered the squatter story, homeless people looking for accommodation. They took over large blocks of flats still being renovated after the war. There were daily battles to evict them. It was a community looking for living space. Some were eventually given prefab houses on any open parkland and made a community. The squatter movement went on for at least 12 months. GG wrote news stories and pieces for the LL. The Man.G had small ads on the front page at this time. Other papers did too. [11:28] Most of 1946 and 1947 GG spent doing this, interviewing police, squatters and other residents. The violence was like nothing that we see now. There were no lethal weapons. GG also covered transport problems, and dock strikes. John Anderson was the labour correspondent and GG added to his material. Public demonstrations often took place in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Sometimes GG would spend a day going out to the suburbs and write about what was happening to the rebuilding there. The Atlee government was trying to reconstruct the nation. Housing was the biggest issue. There was black market crime around food, which was still rationed. [19:42] At the beginning of 1948 Paddy Monkhouse went back to Manchester. John Beavan took over and GG did not get on with him. He looked for a job with the News Chronicle, which was in Bouverie Street. Norman Cursley interviewed him and gave him a job. GG had a great boyhood affection for the paper. He started there in February 1948. RJ Cruikshank was just taking over as editor, and was one of the most considerate editors ever. [27:37] This is when GG really settled down after the war. It was the warmest, most encouraging ambience GG ever worked in. There were wonderful writers like AA Cummings and Ian McKay, a very well read essayist. He influenced GG with his wide professional experience and was widely read in literature. Then there was Willy Forrest, who had been war correspondent. He had been a member of the Communist Party, then left. GG was still in it and they argued about this. GG felt that Stalin had done so much to overthrow Hitler and did not like the American propaganda machine. [36:55] Margit was more active in the CP than GG. He was active in the National Union of Journalists and was secretary of the chapel at one time. GG and Margit moved to Muswell Hill and then joined the Hornsey branch of the CP where Palm Dutt was a member, the hard line Stalinist. At the NC Tom Baister, who was active in the Socialist Journalists Association and GG would have long discussions. [41:36] Others soon joined the paper, Vicky, Bruce Rothwell and Jimmy Cameron, David Holloway and Sally Gray who became his wife. These were like minded figures and would have long pub lunches. Sally was a lost soul in the reporters room when she joined. Mabel Elliott was a good reporter but difficult, and there was one other elderly female. GG took pity on Sally. [46:51] The NC building was quite modern for the time. As you went in the first thing you saw was the bust of Charles Dickens. NC was an amalgam of 3 papers, Daily News, Daily Chronicle, Westminster Gazette, all liberal papers shaped and financed by the Cadbury family. Ian McKay made a wonderful speech at the Labour Party conference in the early 1950s featuring Cadburys chocolate, then dropped dead. The breadth of his personality reminds GG of Robbie Burns. [52:12] Description of the reporters room and editorial offices on the 3rd floor. The first shift started at 10 am and the last one ended at 4 am. There was a weekly roster of shifts, and stories were parcelled out. One time GG went to Sussex to do a Rogation Day colour piece, a descriptive article. The next day he might be in the docks, or covering an outbreak of fire. Then there was a murder when Sugar Ray Robinson came here to box. A young woman was murdered and the suspect came from his camp. GG went to investigate. You never knew what you would be doing. The first shift was a good one, as this was when the work was handed out. The next best was the mid afternoon. London had three good evening newspapers, and you could catch a story that the morning had missed. The dog shift, 8pm till 4am was uncivilised, and getting home afterwards was hard. They were exciting times. [1:03:10] GG covered the Canadian seaman’s strike which was very nasty. He spent day after day in the docks and was given the office car, an unusual occurrence. The Liberal policy of the paper was very flexible and if the reporter felt that it should be said, it went through. The dock strike was full of political dynamite. The seamen had a genuine grievance but it was an unofficial strike and therefore they got no strike pay. GG lived with the dockers and their families. You went into a telephone box, scribbled an introduction on the back of an envelope and then spoke your copy for half an hour. It would be subbed but was not altered for political reasons. GG received a letter of commendation for his work. Details of docks and union domination, and religious divides. Industrial relations were fascinating. Communities had absorbed immigrants, Irish, Jews and others. It was a remarkable mix. [1:13:30] GG reported on the Festival of Britain too, but he began to be singled out to report labour problems. He was in the political sphere too. Geoffrey Cox was the number one political man in the NC and GG was seconded to go to a Labour Party conference in 1949. He managed to catch Ernest Bevin, Foreign Secretary. GG was then asked to cover for GC as lobby correspondent. He was also number two to Margaret Stewart as industrial correspondent. He attended news conferences. Harold Wilson had just been appointed to the Board of Trade. He went in October 1948 to hear Aneurin Bevan defending the new health service. He handled the consultants magnificently. GG remembers his performance well. It was the beginning of a friendship. [1:26:03] GG’s interests were really foreign affairs and history but he slipped into industry and politics and the social canvas became a fascination. A good general reporter can expose life. Jimmy Cameron got out and about in India, didn’t just talk to the establishment. GG read round his subject too. [1:31:30] Some of his stories about how families coped during the strike were given a good showing in the paper. GG went on a tour of docks round the country, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester and Hull. In Liverpool and Hull there was serious corruption in the trade unions. He presented these charges to Arthur Deakin, secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, and he threw GG out of the office. The NC ran the stories in spite of threats that they might have been sued. Money changed hands and there were election fiddles in the union. [1:39:14] Vicky drew a fantastic cartoon of AD astride his union. AD wanted Vicky fired and threatened to stop distribution of the NC. Nothing happened. He was an unpleasant man. [1:41:01] In the mid 1950s Suez, Hungary and Berlin happened. The NC condemned Eden over Suez. Michael Curtis was the new editor. Laurence Cadbury disagreed. Cecil Gabitas said that since the Board was split the editor should decide. Circulation was 1,600.000 and going down. MC condemned Eden but allowed articles in favour of Eden to appear in the paper too. It was great liberal journalism. The NC lost more circulation and bought the Daily Dispatch, a northern paper. This did not help. Circulation of 1,300,000 was uneconomic. They did not have enough advertising. The reader profile was aging and not wealthy. [1:49:37] The NC was a genuine radical liberal paper through the 1930s. It reported on Germany in 1933 and was always anti fascist. Story. Reporters had integrity both professionally and morally. Each newspaper is its own university, and has its own culture.

  • Description

    Life story interview with journalist Geoffrey Goodman

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