Press & media
Goodman, Geoffrey (6 of 9). Oral History of the British Press
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2008-02-18, 2008-02-29, 2008-04-16, 2008-04-28, 2008-05-19, 2008-06-11, 2008-07-07, 2008-07-21
British Library, London
Goodman, Geoffrey, 1922-2013 (speaker, male)
Brodie, Louise (speaker, female)
Part 6: GG’s son was born in 1949 and his daughter in 1951. The NC Christmas parties were known for the Cadbury family donating large lumps of chocolate at the Christmas parties. The children both went to state schools, he to Latymer School, Edmonton. She went to Palmers Green High School afterwards as she needed extra help. Really only blossomed at university. His son won a scholarship to Mill Hill and then to Imperial College. She went to King Alfred’s School in Hampstead, liberal in every sense of the word, and then to London university, doing social services. (7:43) GG was offered a job as industrial correspondent at the Daily Herald in 1959. This was about a year before the NC folded. GG was reluctant to go, as he felt part of a special newspaper. The DH did not attract him in a professional sense. It was attached too closely to the Labour party and the unions. But it was tempting as GG took over a whole department. It was situated in Long Acre/Endell Street. The job opened all sorts of doors. The first assignment was to follow the 1959 election, which meant that GG became close to Aneurin Bevan. The two of them went round the country together. [15:09] At weekends they came back to his farm near Ashridge. It was a riveting period of dialogue with the great man. He was well read and had great vision. He had a sense of pessimism. He had no respect for Gaitskell. He was already a sick man. He held mass meetings during the day and in the evenings. There was a whole range of political activity, before the time of television. Incident in Coventry where he had just spoken for Dick Crossman. Only when you are really close to power and responsibility can you realise how pressurised it is, and the difficulties of running a nation. It is hard to understand for those outside. [26:01] The media has a special role. This experience first helped GG to understand. AB was a romantic and political philosopher. His great phrase was, you can never bring forward the future and impose it. You cannot, in the manner of Marxist socialism, impose upon a reluctant electorate. He felt you had to bring people along with you. GG mentions another occasion in Yorkshire when the News of the World wanted 1000 words from AB by that evening. GG took down his thoughts and wrote for him. Had Gaitskell won, AB would have been foreign secretary, and this article was about how he would approach the job in the light of the cold war. Britain would be in the forefront. AB wanted a control on the use of nuclear weapons. He would encourage Moscow to move to a more democratic society, and realised it would be difficult to bring America along too. GG would take a part of his unscripted speeches, and write a sketch around this for the DH. [35:20] On the eve of poll he was back in Wales having given a speech saying that the people who led the nations of the world were smaller and smaller people on a bigger and bigger platform. They watched Harold Macmillan on an early television that evening. AB felt that Gaitskell had lost them the election by promising people social services for no extra taxes, untenable. The next time they met was at the Labour party conference. Details of AB’s speech then, the “meretricious society” speech. [43:03] The community around the Fleet Street papers was remarkable. The pubs were famed as the meeting point. There was an interchange between the journalists themselves. They would exchange their experiences quite freely. There was a degree of honour and trust around sharing stories. There were exceptions, but people would remember when someone had broken a confidence in a highly charged group of people. Newspapers were the king of the media at the time. Millions of copies were sold. The Daily Mirror and the Daily Sketch were the only tabloid size papers. Left and right wing respectively. The popular press and serious press were all broadsheets. [52:20] It was a very different milieu then. They did not have a media arrogance. Journalists have taken a superior role now, in spite of the online revolution. People blogging, who may have no access to research and information, as journalists may do. The internet is frequently incorrect, books are fundamentally important to research. The Fleet Street of the 1950s and 60s had some great reporting, of a depth we rarely get today. The Financial Times gave first class social analysis. The Telegraph and the Daily Express would have brilliant reporting across the social scale. There was also very good parliamentary reporting, such as by William Barclay. Newspapers then, Fleet Street and regional, were a much better reflection of national life than they are today. [1:00:25] The culture led to far too much drinking and the break up of family life. It was particularly true of foreign correspondents. The Daily Express would have more than 130 staff foreign correspondents around the world. Then there was the whole mode of life as a journalist. Then he/ she would be devoted to their jobs 24/7. This devotion to a particular paper was much more distinctive than today, politically, socially and culturally. A Times man would probably have been to Oxbridge. The Express had people who started in the provinces and graduated to Fleet Street. Not now. GG thinks we have lost something. You may be better equipped to write something coming from a college now, but have no experience of life. Odhams Press in Endell Street then was part of the Fleet Street culture. The Grays Inn Road, Kemsley empire, would all migrate back to the Fleet Street pubs. Inside the Daily Herald it was not so intellectual as the News Chronicle. The journalism was good but the tempo and attitude and editing did not have the depth of the NC. GG missed that. Each paper was different and had its own ethos. Articles had to have shorter sentences and less complicated explanations.
Life story interview with journalist Geoffrey Goodman