I had to have a second read of a piece on Hold The Front Page’s website this morning.
It is actually about an attempt by the National Union of Journalists to include regional newspapers amongst community assets – the local pub, village shop, cinema and library – afforded some protection by the Localism Act from closure. The union’s secured a slot at next week’s Trade Union Congress for delegates to debate a motion aimed at halting the wave of local newspaper shutdowns. Sadly, apparently a quarter of people living in the UK no longer have a newspaper they can call their own. Serious stuff.
Of course the relationship between those community assets of pub and newspaper is a very long and very close one. For some the two institutions are barely indistinguishable. I am sure it is different for today’s multi-media journalists, but pubs have always played a key role in the lives of many reporters. They were the places you went to get a story and the places you went to calm down after a stressful day – often before the day had actually finished. Even when pub opening hours were far less liberal some journalists had an uncanny knack of managing their working week to ensure, for example, they were in the right town at the right time for market day. A former colleague on an evening paper, who I suspect is no longer with us, was less subtle. Never mind the jacket draped over the back of the chair while its owner disappeared for a long liquid lunch, he used to keep in his draw a pair of shoes in a brown paper bag. At about 11.30, when that day’s paper was finished, he would announce “Off to the cobblers” and disappear from the newsroom holding for everybody to see the bag of shoes. Everybody knew what he was up to – the time he was away from the office and his complexion were major clues – but nothing was every done about it.