The Gentlemen Ranters site is a
brilliant compendium of reminiscences of the great days of Fleet Street. –
Issue # 220
November 11, 2011
We’ll get round to the Leveson Inquiry in a minute;
we don’t want to appear preoccupied with the thing.
The important news is that Tabloid, the movie based on (but not
giving credit to) Tony Delano’s brilliant book, Joyce McKinney and the Case
of the Manacled Mormon goes on general release next week. Apparently the
BBC plans to screen it next year, after everybody who wants to, will have seen
Our advice is that if you want to see examples of
Fleet Street’s finest at work – including a photographer (Kent Gavin, of course)
becoming Reporter of the Year – you should buy the book. Better value, better
fun, better story, better told.
Joyce herself, poor old tart, still doesn’t seem sure
whether it’s good for her image or not (it’s not), so she’s employed Shyster,
Shyster and Shyster to look after her interests. Still, the news of the film’s
release brought back memories for Tim Minogue – about the first scoop on the story and a photographer who didn’t win any awards at all.
Roland Gribben forgot to send a birthday card to his old chief reporter Guy Rais, so he’s written a piece about him,
John Shone writes about how Fleet Street tumbled to the cost of living. What’s that got to do with the price of fish? That’s where it
New reader Phil Johnson remembers great days in
And so we come to the Leveson Inquiry.
The jury may still be out on whether journalists
nicked pictures in the old days (but there is no evidence yet to suggest that we
did). Peter Smith says that he didn’t, but he remembers being asked to return one that he’d borrowed. And Paul Fievez compares the differences between then and now (apparently stealing, or using photos without permission, is common practice these days).
And as usual Rudge props the whole thing
By Tim Minogue
Ranters readers will
remember how, in autumn 1977 and spring 1978, the nation was gripped by the Case
of the Manacled Mormon. A former Miss Wyoming, Joyce McKinney, had for three days,
with the aid of a male accomplice, Keith May, held prisoner a young missionary,
Kirk Anderson, with whom she was sexually obsessed.
At a subsequent court
hearing it was revealed that, after kidnapping Anderson, the former beauty queen
had kept him manacled to a bed and had forced him to have quite a lot of sex,
supposedly against his will.
told the court: ‘I loved Kirk so much that I would have skied down Mount Everest in the nude with a carnation up my
This is now the subject
of a documentary film, Tabloid, by Errol Morris, which tells the story of
the media frenzy surrounding the case, in particular how the Molloy
Mirror scooped the Jameson Express, which bought up Joyce’s
super-sanitised story, with revelations of her escort girl past, nude photos and
As a junior
reporter on the Mirror Group’s Plymouth training scheme I played a very small
and inglorious part near the beginning of the saga.
I was on the
Tavistock Times and had been seconded to its sister paper, the
Okehampton Times, for the week. My senior colleague, David France,
had a tip from a police contact that we should head up on to Dartmoor, where we’d find ‘something very interesting’.
As tips go, it was one
of the vaguest – Dartmoor being a rather large
area – but we had a bit of luck. Driving rather aimlessly about we spotted an
unmarked Ford Escort ahead of us. It was pale blue and had an unusually large
aerial. That and the fact that two large coppers were in it gave it away as a
We followed it to a
remote farmhouse, which, it turned out, was where McKinney had had her way with young Kirk -- and
the Okehampton Times had beaten the world’s press to
We arrived shortly after
McKinney and the
exhausted Mormon had been taken away, but police had not had time to seal off
the site properly. The breakfast things were still on the kitchen table,
although sadly no manacles were in evidence.
‘Quick! Get some
pictures before we get kicked out of here,’ we told the local wedding
photographer – whose name I forget – who worked part-time for the paper. Pause.
‘Come on...’ Silence. ‘What’s up?’
‘Er, there doesn’t seem
to be any film in the camera.’
By the time David and
the shame-faced snapper had returned from the 15-mile round trip to Okehampton,
I’d been booted off the farm and the police had set up a cordon about half a
mile away, so the only picture anyone could get of the place was a distant one
of the roof.
And by then, of course,
various hacks from the nationals had turned up, including Geoffrey Lakeman (then
in his final weeks at the Telegraph, before moving the Mirror) and
the Mirror’s Syd Young. So I made a few quid out of them. But there was
to be no Inside-Sex-in-Chains-Love-Nest photo scoop.
These days the
photographer would have avoided the no-film situation, by having a digital
camera. But would, no doubt, have neglected to charge the
A Mr Shyster writes:
Joyce McKinney, subject of Errol
Morris’ documentary Tabloid, has filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court
against the filmmaker and other individuals and associated companies such as
Moxie Films, Sundance Select and IFC Films. McKinney alleges among other things
misappropriation of likeness, defamation, misrepresentation, fraud, intentional
infliction of emotional distress and breach of contract. McKinney asserts in the
suit that she was approached in 2009 and led to believe that her cooperation in
a project for a Showtime series would help clear her name in connection with a
long-ago scandal. Instead, she claims, the resulting movie held her up to public
ridicule and reinforced a false image of her as having kidnapped a Mormon
missionary in England in 1977 and holding him
against his will and repeatedly raping him. She was arrested and British
tabloids and TV had a field day with what became known as the ‘Manacled Mormon’
maintains that she was rescuing her fiancé from a
In an effort to gain access to
photographs, home movies and other memorabilia, the suit claims, representatives
of Morris including a person identified as Ajae Clearway and Mark Lipson
repeatedly badgered her and tricked her into letting them carry away plastic
bins full of newspaper clippings and other material that Morris was allegedly
going to peruse for images he could use in the documentary — which plaintiff
maintains she had been falsely led to believe would be part of a Showtime
series. Additionally McKinney alleges that during the course of her
interactions with people associated with making the movie, Lipson agreed to help
save her service dog that was scheduled to be put to death at a pound but
instead allowed it to happen then taunted her about
In November 2010 McKinney says in the suit she traveled to New York City to the Doc
NYC festival to see the film that Morris had made. Afterward she became
distressed at ‘having been deceived’ about how she would be depicted, the
movie’s revival of the ‘Manacled Mormon’ story and use of personal memorabilia
she claims was stolen as well as many purportedly false and negative statements
and portrayals in Tabloid. McKinney is seeking unspecified compensatory,
punitive and other damages as well as civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and court
Gentleman of the press
By Roland Gribben
Private Eye dubbed him ‘Gentleman
Guy Rais’ when he ticked off fellow reporters because he felt they had been
discourteous to then Labour Prime Minister James Callaghan.
Guy attracted many other sobriquets during a Fleet Street career stretching over 35 years with the Daily Telegraph and embracing
everything from cod wars to a pub crawl with the Duchess of Argyll.
He buzzed like a bee, dressed in Telegraph grey
and his trade mark slimline moustache gave him an under-stated air of authority.
He could be mildly explosive, appropriate of course for a man born on November 5
1919 and named Guy. ‘Silly old fool,’ was a frequent signing off sound after
unproductive phone calls.
He's just celebrated his 92nd birthday, cementing his position as the Telegraph’s oldest surviving news room based reporter. (Clare Hollingworth, former defence corr, at 100 has the edge in terms of years but not unbroken service). He was the consummate professional capable of infiltrating a restricted Vatican
conference with the aid of a London Underground pass and .displayed diplomatic
talents in exclusively obtaining the photo-finish picture of a Goodwood race
where blinkered stewards had named the wrong horse as winner and rushing it to
He went home with 10 bob – the equivalent of 50p – for his first week’s effort as a very junior reporter on the Evening Argus in Hastings
in 1936. Wartime service found him in the Middle East, producing a news sheet
based on BBC bulletins after a hazardous episode at St Nazaire and post-war a
spell on the Eastbourne Chronicle was followed by the move to the Telegraph
as South Coast correspondent.
He arrived in Fleet St in grand style with the news editor of the day waiting outside 135 to send him on his first assignment – a murder case – in a chauffeur driven Daimler.
Guy’s acquaintance with prime ministers did not start and end with Callaghan. He had an intriguing encounter with Winston Churchill after being sent down to
Chartwell for a health check story. A grumpy Churchill was alarmed at being
found by Guy outside walking and gave the startled reporter a piece of his mind.
Churchill twice phoned Viscount Camrose, the Telegraph proprietor at the time,
eventually explaining that he didn’t want anything reported about being seen
outside his home because he had called off a week-end with the Queen on the
grounds that he wasn’t well.
comment that Guy had been courteous and restrained provided lift-off for the
Rais career. He was effectively chief reporter in the days before the title had
been discovered. Major court cases became his speciality. They included the
murder trial of Dr Bodkin Adams, the Eastbourne
physician who had been GP to Guy’s mother and Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, who
gave birth to the Telegraph’s famous
or infamous Page 3.
correspondent’s career blossomed with the US troop landings in Beirut, the Nyasaland
riots and the Algerian civil war among a long list of credits. He scooped the
world with a powerful interview with General Jacques Massu, de Gaulle’s ally,
during the Algerian conflict and was rewarded by having it on the font page of
Le Monde. Furious French reporters
took their revenge when they used Guy’s bowler – the identification for a
neutral – as a pissoir.
By John Shone
Reading Ian Kerr’s tribute to Clive Crickmer and his
account of the tedious jobs given to juniors on the Evening Chon at Newcastle (Ranters Oct 21)
reminded me of the mind-bogglingly boring tasks that I had to undertake in the
early days of my career.
After a stint as a copy boy in the newsroom of The Sporting Life, I pestered my way to
the top floor of 107-109 Fleet St and the offices of Fishing News, the weekly trade paper for
those brave souls who plied their trade in the coastal waters of the British
Isles and the cruel seas off Iceland in trawlers, herring drifters and similar
‘I’m afraid the job’s gone,’ said editor Lloyd
Butcher, when I phoned to enquire about a vacancy for an editorial assistant
that I’d seen in World’s Press News.
But encouragingly, he added: ‘We might have something else coming up in a few
I rang him virtually twice a week for the next month…
until the kindly Scot finally relented and called me in for an
A week later, I was boarding a No 4A bus from
Islington to Ludgate Circus to take my place as a proud protégé of the news
editor, Mr Thomas H Bailey.
In between making copious amounts of tea and running
errands to Jolly’s sandwich shop on Ludgate Circus, I found myself churning out
fishy stories from places as far afield as Mallaig and Mevagissey, Lerwick and
Lowestoft, Peterhead and Port Isaac.
I never got to visit them. It was all done on the
phone, or by processing the lineage copy that came in from our stringers on the
Aberdeen Press and Journal, the Hull Daily Mail, the Grimsby Evening Telegraph, the Fleetwood
But I did make it to… Billingsgate, where, thanks to
the cheery market porters, I quickly expanded my vocabulary. Every Tuesday I
took the bus from outside the Daily
Telegraph offices to wend my way around the fish wholesalers to pick up the
latest market trends in cod, halibut, lobsters, whelks and
To these, I added statistics on catches from ports
around the country to produce a whole page of fish prices that were analysed
avidly by those in the know, in the same way that the gambling fraternity
studies horse-racing form. There was no room for error, I was told sternly.
Livelihoods depended on it.
To me, as a 17-year-old, it was a bit of a bore, but
I just had to get on with it, along with filing countless photographs of fishing
boats, counting the lineage so that contributors could be paid, and ending my
day with a trip to the parcels office at Waterloo station to put the day’s
output of the editorial team on the train to our printers in
Every Friday, when the results of the printers’
labours arrived in Fleet
St, there was another important, but menial, task to
perform: The Retrospect. It involved going through the paper and summarising the
main stories of the week. This was Mr Bailey’s idea …to make sure that there was
no shortage of copy when Christmas came around and the usual flow of material
from our stringers dried up.
For the Yuletide edition, two or even three pages
were given over to The Year In Retrospect. It worked well… until the lad who
took over from me when I was given extra subbing responsibilities became rather
lax and decided that he couldn’t be bothered with the weekly chore.
Now, being a part-time chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral, Mr
Bailey never swore, but you could hardly measure the height of his dudgeon when
he asked for the Retrospect copy a week or so before Christmas, and found that
The Year comprised just eight lines. My lazy colleague spent several long nights
delving back through the files… and a week or two later he was delving the job
vacancies for a new position.
After three years of Mr B’s tutelage, it was time to
move on, and attending a food trade conference with other trade press
journalists I was fortunate to meet T E Clark, editor of the Grocers’ Gazette, who examined my
shorthand as I sat next to him and promptly offered me a job at £500 a year more
than I was getting at Arthur J Heighway Publications.
There was just one snag: because of my experience
with the fish markets, I was to take responsibility for updating the Price
Guide, the Gazette’s monthly
supplement which listed the price of everything from Kellogg’s Cornflakes to Oxo
cubes so that grocers across the land knew exactly what to charge. (Of course,
even back in the mid sixties, Jack Cohen of Tesco and Lord Sainsbury were
starting to change all that).
It seemed another dull job, but, after a month or
two, I began to notice that the inflationary spiral resulting from the economic
policies of Harold Wilson’s Labour government were taking their toll. Food
prices were rocketing – and this was a great story.
Every month, I totted up the number of price
increases notified by the food manufacturers and compiled a piece for the news
section of the paper. But my news editor, Tom Batty, another kindly gentleman,
felt it was worth more than that.
‘Give PA a ring,’ he suggested one Friday, ‘and put
something over to copy.’ And that’s how
my stories went national and caused ructions in
The feedback, via Durrants’ press cuttings service,
showed that our monthly round-up on food prices was making the splash not only
in provincial papers such as the Edinburgh Evening News, the Liverpool Echo and the Wolverhampton Express and Star, but was
being picked up and commented upon by The
Times, the Mail and even the
The Tories had a field day during Commons Questions,
casting a black cloud over ‘Sunny’ Jim Callaghan, the chancellor of the
exchequer. He must have been ruing the day that I’d decided to start counting up
the price rises but, typical politician, he accused the Gazette of distorting the figures
We stuck to our guns, of course. But I sometimes
wonder what old Jim would have said if he’d found out that the source of the
Great Food Price Scandal was an 11-plus failure with not even an O-level in
maths. I guess he would have sworn… like a fish porter.
After 50 years in newspapers, John Shone works part-time as a news
organiser with BBC Wales in Wrexham
Great days, old Sport…
By Phil Johnson
Just recently I discovered the
wonderful Gentlemen Ranters and have
spent many enjoyable hours trawling the archives, loving the reminiscences,
remembering many of the people mentioned, and relishing the tales of the ones I
But the accounts of the demise of
the old Daily and Sunday Sport were the ones that really
caught my eye. Because I was there for six of the ‘glory’ years. When it had
humour and – whether you liked it or not – an identity. Then, sadly, for the
next three when humourless clones in suits with no idea what the paper was about
started on the company’s destruction.
But for those six years the Daily Sport was the finest job I had
known. Working with great operators like Les Groves – the best chief sub I ever
knew – John Stead and Jim Copeland. Plus Andy Carson, tough and fearless but
always straight – when straight meant straight. I admired
Mix in Jeff McGowan, Neil Mackay
and Bob Wilson from the newsdesk and the eccentric but brilliant art editor Mike
Burnham and it made quite a team. (How I fondly remember Neil`s tales of chasing
my hero George Best all over Europe for the Sunday Mirror. They brightened many a
rainy Ancoats afternoon after we got back from a long break in the Land
This was a time when the news
subs – yes, news subs – were taken round the corner to the Indian for monthly
brainstorming sessions. The only banned topic was work. But when we had work to
do we did it and the papers – technically at least – were up there with the
I eventually found myself moved
to features and made a nice little niche there. One of the big reasons for the
paper’s existence was to sell David Sullivan’s sex products and strip shows.
There was also the occasional competition. More of that
Nobody else on the staff wanted
anything to do with this so I made myself the expert. A world of mysterious
memos from Sullivan, strange sex products being delivered to my desk and
constant trips to the lightbox to examine pictures of nude models to illustrate
the ‘editorial’ I produced. I had charts that nobody else understood. To be
honest neither did I. At the conference I announced the space I needed and
nobody blinked. I was left totally to my own devices. Occasionally I was asked
if I could at least try to make these endless ‘puffs’ look a bit like news. But
when I said this was how Sullivan wanted it shoulders fell and the room went
At the peak of the Daily Sport success we ran a competition
for a Harley Davidson that led to one of the worst moments in my 40 years in
journalism. As with all Sport
promotions it ran for far too long. But in the end we had five sacks filled with
Then came the only instruction I
was given. For God’s sake just pick a winner who looks ‘decent’. Now all I had
was the entries, many dog-eared and illiterate. But there was one I remembered.
Neatly clipped from the paper, good handwriting and – unbelievably – the
spelling was correct. But I needed more information and – posing as a market
research worker – phoned the guy. He spoke in a clear voice. Not Eton, but good enough. I had my man. I quickly ended the
The winner was announced and the
photoshoot – it was in London – arranged. A couple of days later the
pics were due to arrive and all morning I was pestering picture editor Paul
Currie. A bit later he came over to my desk and said solemnly: ‘You had better
come over and take a look at this.’
I went to the terminal and what I
saw took me to the verge of collapse. (I was under the doctor for blood pressure
at the time and I’ve often thought if I can survive that feeling I can survive
Astride the gleaming Harley was a
cross between Ernie the fastest milkman and a Homepride flour grader. A total
wally. I was finished at the Sport.
But no. Not a word was ever said.
I think others in senior positions must have taken all the flak for me. As I
stated earlier, they were all so terrified of being asked to take over my role
that I was fireproof.
Phil Johnson was
chief sub on the Bolton Evening News
while shifting for both Mirrors and
the Star in Manchester before joining
the Sport. He left in 1997 to move to
By Peter Smith
So no-one will ever admit pinching a photograph from
a mantelpiece or sideboard? Really? It’s a well known ‘fact’ that hoards of
hacks nicked pictures from grieving families but, when push comes to shove, it
wasn’t me, guv. That was the message I read in Ranters last week. Well, I have to
admit, neither did I pinch one – but I do recall acquiring one in circumstances
of the utmost discretion.
I was a reporter on The Star, the London evening that folded
51 years ago last month along with its morning stable mate, the News Chronicle. There had been a murder
in Soho, or it might have been an attempted
murder – from this distance in time I can’t remember precisely which. A young,
er, lady, employed at Freddy’s club in Greek Street had stabbed her boyfriend, had
been arrested and I was to obtain a photograph of the
Perhaps I should explain here that I already had some
knowledge of Freddy’s club. A good friend of mine – later to become the
respected managing editor of a reputable, broadsheet ‘quality’ national
newspaper – had discovered a simple way of gaining entry to this establishment
without payment of any ‘membership fee’. He simply went up to the bouncer at the
door and asked ‘Is Freddy in?’ The bouncer would nod and say ‘Yes, he’s
upstairs’ and in we would all troop. This went well until the fateful evening
when my friend walked up the bouncer with the usual enquiry to be told: ‘Yes,
I’m Freddy. What d’you want?’ The memory cells have obscured how we got out of
But I digress. Clearly, winkling a photograph of the
lady from Freddy would require some discretion; it wouldn’t do at all, I
assumed, to reveal we wanted it to illustrate a report of a murder. I can’t
remember exactly what tale I told but I did acquire the photograph. And I didn’t
I rushed back to Bouverie Street in triumph to tell the news
editor and hand the photograph to the picture editor.
I had barely got back to my desk in the reporters’
room when the phone rang. It was Freddy: he wanted his photograph back – and
soon. I stalled, assuring him that I would return it just as soon as the picture
editor had finished with it. Fearing threats of retribution from Soho heavies should we dare publish it, I asked him why he
wanted it back so quickly.
‘I’ve only just heard she’s been arrested for
murder,’ he said. ‘And I want to get out a special programme and posters with
her picture in them.’
What is it they say about ‘any
By Paul Fievez
John Dale's thoughts on Lord
Leveson's enquiry, and the submissions to it by (among others) Paul Dacre, (Gentlemen Ranters 218) stirred the memory banks.
In the very early 1970s as a young photographer I found myself employed by John Rodger's London News Service.
LNS and its rival, North London News Agency run by the late Tommy Bryant, were at that time the agencies where young reporters and photographers, not yet quite ready for Fleet Street – but on their way – went to get a year or two's hard experience, and have a few rough edges smoothed off.
Except that neither John nor
Tommy (both graduates of an earlier and much harder generation of newsmen) was
interested in smoothing rough edges. They surgically removed ’em – using
angle-grinders and chainsaws. If you did not shape up pretty dammed quick, you
were out. Two very hard schools, but which between them produced many good
reporters – many of whom went on to become senior executives on Fleet Street,
plus some very talented prize-winning
Because of the nature, and the
modus operandi, of the two agencies they inevitably got the assignments that
news and picture editors on the various nationals did not wish to assign to
their own staff… doorsteps, court 'snatches', death-knocks. Pick-up/collect
pictures were all big business then, and both LNS, and NLNA excelled at them.
As an added bonus, whenever there
were complaints, enquiries, or potential legal problems, news and picture
editors, and editors themselves, had the get-out of saying: ‘This
story/photograph was supplied to us by a usually reliable freelance agency –
whom we shall not be using again....’ But of course, they
As I say, 'collects' were big
business, and as John Dale points out we were all very good at 'conning' or
'blagging' our way into – and sometimes out of – situations. Yes we were
duplicitous, and stretched the line to breaking point, but did we actually
steal? I think no, perhaps, and well your honour, it
I recall one occasion, in the 70s
when we had obtained the name of a victim of an early IRA London bomb Incident.
A handful of reporters from the nationals were on the door-step. I was the only
photographer. It was agreed that if the widow would let us in, I would get as
many pictures of her, and collects of the victim, as were possible, and then
leave the reporters to it. LNS, as an agency, would ensure that every paper
would get a fair crack at the photographs.
So we knocked on the door, and
the lady came out to talk, or rather to tell us to piss-off! As we pressed our
case, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a figure climbing out of a back window
of the house. It was Tommy Bryant. Seeing me looking at him, he raised both
hands. In one was several framed photographs, and with the other hand, he gave
me the V sign.
To this day I wonder, was he
already in the house before we arrived, in which case why did he use the window
to make his exit? Or, did he use our arrival on the front door as a distraction,
and nip in through an open window, and help himself? Only two people know for
sure, Tommy, and the widow. Tommy is certainly long gone, and the widow probably
Time moved on, and I did too. As
a staff photographer on the Daily
Mail, I and another snapper were sent with reporter David Ian Pryke
(remember those two first names, they are relevant to the story) to try and get
an interview, and of course, the family album from the wife of a particularly
vicious criminal who had just been arrested.
Before we knocked on the door,
David said: ‘Leave the talking to me until we are in the house.’ We knocked, and
David, a tall elegant man, well dressed, and with a dapper moustache, introduced
himself. Politely raising his trilby, ‘Good evening, madam,’ he said. ‘D I
Pryke… I think you might be expecting us.’
David – remember those two first
names – never actually said he was a policeman. But the lady had obviously had
enough previous experience to link, and interpret, the letters D I in a
Was it our fault if she added
two-and-two together and came up with five? Naturally, we left with the family
I admit to having pulled many
stunts over the years but like John Dale I can put hand on heart and say that I
never stole a picture.
If sent out to get a 'collect' or
'pick-up' picture, we snappers knew that we could not leave anything for the
opposition. There was no point in walking away with just one picture, and
leaving the rest for another photographer or worse, an agency, to obtain. We
would take the lot. Negatives too were borrowed – and returned in due course. By
hoovering up everything and anything that could be used as an illustration, we
had of course 'stolen' a march on the opposition, and many a photographer and
reporter has been heard to ruefully say; "That thieving so-and-so snapper/scribe
from the Mail, the Express, Mirror (name whichever rival
comes to your mind) has 'nicked' the whole bloody
They meant of course that we had
'nicked' the prize from them, and I wonder if over the years, a big myth, and an
even bigger misnomer has been created by people who did not understand the
terminology, or perhaps by reporters/photographers working for the
opposition,(including myself from time-to-time), who were trying to justify
their own lack of success to their various news and picture
On the subject of theft, Lord
Leveson, (if he reads Ranters), Paul
Dacre, and indeed, other editors too, should consider that in reality much more
theft goes on today, than it did thirty or forty years
In the old-days it would
sometimes take days, or even weeks before the names of victims became public
knowledge. Then, to track people down, teams or reporters and photographers
would spend much more time going through the racks of telephone directories,
trade directories, and electoral roles that every office kept up-to-date.
Further time would be spent tramping the streets, knocking on doors to find the
next-of-kin. Invariably, the victim's families would have had at least some time
to get used to the news of a loved one’s demise, before the inevitable
Today however we have a different
situation. Thanks to the Internet, within hours – sometimes minutes – of a story
starting it is on the web. Be it a shooting on an American university campus,
Derrik Bird's rampage through West Cumbria,
British yachtsmen kidnapped by Somali pirates… whatever. Within minutes we all
not only know about it, but there are also frequently live web-cam pictures,
names of both perpetrators, and their victims, being published live on blogs and
forums – often before any next of kin or relatives even know the full extent of
a situation, and what happens…?
I spent the last few years of my
Fleet Street career as a night picture editor. Sorry, the confidentiality clause
in the Industrial Relations
Court settlement forbids me from naming the newspaper
concerned, but trust me, this is how it goes.
Within seconds of a story
breaking, news and picture desks are all assigning reporters photographers and
picture researchers to log-in to Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Friends
Re-united. All of the other social networks and personal web-sites are Googled
and scoured for pictures and information. If there is a live web-cam, pictures
are grabbed and frequently published without any regard to copyright. Likewise,
any images on the social sites and personal blogs or web-sites of anyone
involved are all also grabbed before anyone has a chance to close the site down,
and are then published, syndicated, used on television, re-published or
broadcast repeatedly. Sometimes with a small acknowledgement ie Picture:
Facebook, but more usually without.
And of course, all current news
and picture editors do know that someone, somewhere does actually own those
pictures or images. They are published without regard to ownership, copyright,
payment, or regard for permission to use them. My Lord Levenson, if you do
actually read Ranters, is this not too theft, and on a much bigger scale than we
'old-boys' would have ever even considered?
When newspapers and TV grab
material and pictures from the Internet, they do so with the justification that
having been 'published' on the web, the pictures are now in the public domain,
and thus freely available.
While it is technically true that
anyone with internet access can view the material, it skips the point that
someone, somewhere does still actually own it, and might not (probably not) have
given permission for subsequent publication in other
Speaking from experience, I know
how many times in recent years I have seen a picture that someone has downloaded
being squeezed into a late edition, on the basis that the story comes first, and
the day desks or lawyer can sort out any problems