Press & media
Goodman, Geoffrey (8 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 8: GG came back to the Daily Mirror having refused Jim Callaghan’s request to stay on at the Unit. Ironically Hugh Cudlipp did it for a short time, but it was not to his liking and the Unit was wound up. The DM was fighting for its place as the leading popular newspaper, both journalistically and commercially. In 1976-77 the circulation was around three million. Tony Miles was the editor, a good journalist but not such a good editor. Reed International, which was the newsprint group, had become part of IPC. The Mirror Group was part of the new grouping. It was the first national paper to introducing computer printing. The whole ambience in the DM was changing. [8:14] GG had a weekly column and was industrial editor of the newspaper group, a senior editorial figure and responsible for setting the editorial policy for the paper. With Terry Lancaster, Joe Haines, Mike Molloy, Tony Miles, they met every morning. There was an awareness that the board were very concerned about the competition from Murdoch’s Sun, which led to gimmicks. There was the chairman Sir Alex Jarrett who said that he expected a return of 17% return on capital. Beaverbrook required a profit of 2% or 3% from the Daily Express. Other papers at the time might expect 9% or 10%. It was a turning point to expect the paper to be a cash product. The DM was regarded by the board as a political embarrassment. [15:23] The 1970s were a time of industrial unrest, running up to 1979 and Margaret Thatcher. Jim Callaghan asked GG if he wanted to stand for parliament again, he was offered West Ham, a safe seat. GG refused. He liaised with 10 Downing Street for the paper. He attended all JC and MT press conferences. Example of MT not answering his question about her policies causing unemployment. On eve of poll JC knew that the whole scene had changed and that he would lose. He knew that he had little to offer the country. It required a great deal of public expenditure and political force to bring organisations together. GG feels that you must begin to restructure society in a positive social way. [27:19] The old industries, coal mining, ship building, heavy engineering, transport, when they go, you must have in reserve, policies to cope with the social problems. The Heath government did this to some degree. MT ridiculed him and his policies. [29:35] The DM was critical of MT and her action in the Falklands. Lancaster and GG supported the sinking of the Belgrano, as a part of warfare. Reed International wanted to sell the paper and Robert Maxwell bought it. He took over on July 13 1984 and this was the end of the DM as GG had known it. Each of the senior men were called in to see RM to be asked if they would work with him. RM promised GG editorial freedom. He invited GG to join his politburo, the Tuesday lunch to discuss policy. GG agreed. The paper declined [39:22] GG covered the miners’ strike for the paper and found some of his work was changed. The strike was partly the result of Arthur Scargill’s stupidity and MT’s determination to reform the unions. She believed that Heath should have fought the miners earlier. AS was a brilliant madman on an extraordinary ego trip. RM interfered with one of GG’s columns, cutting a piece critical of MT. This was in the autumn of 1984. It was a great drama. Story. RM hugged GG and asked for forgiveness. He did not mind the criticism of MacGregor, just MT. Following this, some of GG’s material was not used, an evasion of RM’s promise not to interfere again. [49:23] MM was replaced by Richard Stott, a younger man who played RM. GG decided to leave in 1986. GG loathed RM’s crookedness but had to recognise his courage. Stories. GG has written a play about RM, whom he thinks was murdered. He was working for Mossad, and other secret services. He linked Israel and Moscow to bring out people from Russia. He had investments in the Israeli defence system. When his dealings in the pension funds were about to be revealed, they would want him out of the way. The play has never been performed, probably due to its political implications. Joe Haines looked at RM as a father figure. RM used him. Bob Edwards was favoured by RM. [1:00:26] GG had been working for the BBC previously. He began to work regularly on a programme called Stop Press for about ten years. From 1986. He found the radio a wonderful medium, to enable one to express feelings in a way that the written word could not. The written word is wonderful but the spoken word, Radio 4 particularly, is a symbol of a civilised country. Then, LBC was quite a serious current affairs channel. GG joined them to work on the Brian Hayes show and eventually had a programme on a Sunday morning for two hours. He ran this for about four or five years. Politicians and other journalists came into the studio, artists too. He called on a lot of friends, trade union leaders, industrialists. It was exciting. LBC changed ownerships and the culture changed. GG is still an odd freelancer here and there. [1:05:52] The written word depends on your skill as an observer. Radio is a bit like the theatre, using your voice, vocal drama, an expanded quality. It turns the written word into a communicated medium. It has a different impact on the mind. It is very, very special and BBC radio is radio at its best. [1:10:23] At LBC GG had to work with outside broadcasts. He was fascinated by the technology but never really understood it. What is happening now is transforming the whole character of journalism. Technology has taken over, visual news, bringing instant news into every home across the globe. Market forces drive out quality. That is why they have to be regulated. People have to demand quality. Global regulation will be extremely difficult to bring about. Gresham was a nineteenth century economist who believed that bad money drives out good money.
Life story interview with journalist Geoffrey Goodman