It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.



Tales From Fleet Street

One of the first newspapers was Ichabod Dawks's News-Letter which included a blank space in each edition in which personal news could be written before being posted to friends and relatives around the country.

Today there are only two newspapers left on Fleet Street, Germany's Bild and D. C. Thomson, publishers of The Beano. The fate of four national newspapers lay in the hands of the great newspaper magnate Alfred Harmsworth also known as Lord Northcliffe (1865-1922) who founded the Daily Mirror, and the Daily Mail before rescuing The Timesand the Observer. He was virulently anti-German but perhaps with good reason: a German warship specifically attacked his house during the First World War.

Before becoming a press baron, Lord Northcliffe wrote a very QI-sounding book: Answers to Correspondents On Every Subject Under the Sun. The first edition contained articles with the headlines ‘What the Queen Eats’, ‘How to Cure Freckles’ and ‘Why Jews Don't Ride Bicycles’; sadly we don't know what his answers were. Northcliffe offered £200 of free 'life insurance' to the family of anyone who was killed in a railway accident AND had a signed copy of Answers on them at the time.

Daily Mail Village in Welwyn Garden City was a village built in response to the housing crisis after the First World War. In 1922, the newspaper planned to build 100 houses showcasing new building methods but the plans were over-ambitious and the project had to be bailed out by the Welwyn Garden City Company who eventually built 41 houses on six acres demonstrating 16 different systems of housing construction. The area was soon renamed Meadow Green.

In 1909, the Daily Mirror offered £5 prizes for ideas on how to improve the paper: suggestions ranged from perfuming the pages with a different scent each day to perforating the stories so they could be torn out and read individually.

Getting the Scoop

The search for a scoop needn’t be confined to those who are still living - during the 1987 election The Sun newspaper asked ‘medium and psychic investigator Nella Jones’ to contact dead historical figures and ask how they would vote. Stalin was voting for Labour. Churchill, Nelson and Boadicea were, unsurprisingly, voting for Margaret Thatcher, and Genghis Khan said he didn’t know.

The first TV review was published on the 2nd November 1936; the BBC’s new service had opened at 3pm the previous day.  The reviewer wrote: ‘I have watched it with interest for two hours, I have a bad headache, and I am looking forward to returning to my radio.’

Newspapers can of course also get it very right. The Top 10 Most Wanted lists stemmed from a journalist working for the Washington Daily News. He wanted a good headline so rang up the FBI for a list of ten tough customers. The article hit the front page and the FBI realised there might be something in enlisting the public’s help.

The first advertising jingles were written down in newspapers; readers were expected
to sing them themselves.

A search for ‘singular coincidence’ in the British Newspaper Archive brings up more than 10,000 articles.

Jung’s grandfather taught his children Hebrew so they would be able to read the newspapers in heaven.

The Fat Boy of Peckham

The Daily Mail was attacking government waste even in 1906, when they wrote about the ‘Fat Boy of Peckham’, John Trundley.

He was too unfit to walk to school. The ‘wastrels’ at the council, to the Mail’s scorn, allegedly built him 200 yards of special railway.

OSCAR WILDE (1854-1900)

The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable, and literature is not read.

The president of Turkmenistan sacked 30 TV news staff in 2008 after a cockroach was spotted walking across the set during a bulletin.

The historic news of the first manned powered flight by the Wright Brothers first appeared in the magazine Gleanings in Bee Culture.

ANEURIN BEVAN (1897-1960)

I read the newspaper avidly. It is my one form of continuous fiction.