2 JUNE 1961, Page 36

Postscript . .

THE 'Exhibition of

British Journalism' at the Bethnal Green Museum may well fascinate those who read newspapers, but it sadly deflates those who write them. For this is an exhibition con- cerned more with jour- nals than with journal- ists. There are first issues of the Daily Universal Register (1785—soon to become the Times), the Scotsman (1817), the Daily News (1846), the Lady (1885, when its staff consisted of nineteen men and never it, woman), the Daily Mail (1896), the Daily Express (1900), the Daily Mirror (1903), the Daily Herald (1912), and the Sunday Telegraph (only the other day); there are copies of Ally Sloper's Half-Holiday, the Pink 'Un, and Home Chat, but the only journalists whose portraits are on view are Barnes, Delane, de Blowitz and William Howard Russell, all of the Times, and all long dead. No portrait of John Wilkes or of Cobbett, of C. P. Scott or of Edgar Wallace; nothing to recall the foreign correspondents of between the wars— men like Ebbutt and Gedye, also of the Times, who were so much wiser and honester than their

'It's as 1 Said, Mildred: Europeans have no sense of time.'

editor and the politicians he dined with; nothing to commemorate the correspondents killed in the last war or in Korea, whose names are already forgotten by their readers, if not by their col- leagues, their garlands briefer than a girl's.

There are few stories shown for their own sake, though there is a copy of the Daily Mail that was printed in gold for the Diamond Jubilee, with a piece from the golden boy war-reporter, G. W. Steevens, that begins, The Queen's procession has passed. It is over, and we are all the richer and all the better for it. We have seen a sight the like of which no eye has seen since the world began. . . .' Clearly, a 'Gee, gosh!' rather than an `Aw, nuts' sort of journalist—a sort that has survived in greater numbers than that of William Howard Russell.

Good writing alone no longer keeps a news- paper alive: that was proved once and for all when it was the Morning Post that died and the Daily Telegraph that stayed alive. (I could not find a single reference to the Morning Post in the exhibition, but I remember that there were tears in the eyes of a Manchester Guardian leader- writer on the night it died: it was the only other paper he respected.) But good writing helps: how else would the Guardian flourish? Not by its news coverage, certainly. And not because its heart is in the right place: look at the News Chronicle. But elsewhere, among too many brash young men on too many popular papers, it has become no longer a matter either of good writing or of determined fact-finding, but of gimmicks, magic-carpeting (which is how we used to describe, during the war, the practice of some of the flasher Alfs of datelining stories from places we hadn't yet got to) and of wiping the other fellow's eye—not to impress the reader, who doesn't even notice, let alone care, but the editor and, more important still, the manage- ment. A bright young man told me loftily the other day that Alan Moorehead wouldn't keep his place on the Daily Express in these days: I can well believe it, but it is a criticism of the Express, not of Moorehead.

There ought to have been a place in the Bethnal Green Museum for the 'Letter from New York' in this month's Encounter, by Murray Kimpton, of the New York Post, with its chilly reference to the Express, the Mail and the Tele- graph, and its story of how he and a British newspaperman were sent to cover a school integration story in Clay, Kentucky. `M, who has energy, got there an hour before me, was met by a group of mountaineers with shotguns and ordered out of town. He left without argument, having made his point, which was to telegraph the Governor that he had been brutally treated and the Daily Z that he was almost hospitalised. I arrived later, met the same group of anxious citizens . . . and persuaded them to let me stay. It has always been my view—unshared by M— that the vicissitudes of covering a story do not themselves constitute a story. Anyway, 1 was having a cup of coffee with the mayor when I decided to call my desk in New York. The editor asked where I was: I said Clay; and he asked at once in tones of indignation why I hadn't been thrown out of town. M's martyrdom had led the evening papers.'

Good, old-fashioned journalists still abound, though, in Rumania, as I observe from the Rumanian News Agency's account in English of the celebrations of the Rumanian Communist Party's fortieth anniversary. We bourgeois jackals of Wall Street would be hard put to it to distin- guish, as they distinguish, in the course of one speech, between Applause; Long Applause; Strong Applause; Long and Strong Applause; Stormy Applause; Enthusiastic Applause; Strong Pro- longed Applause; Loud Prolonged Applause; Enthusiastic and Repeated Applause; Strong and Loud Applause—Ovations; and Enthusiastic Re- peated and Prolonged Applause—Ovations. I have left out one or two minor variations on the theme, and am so impressed by the keen ears and precise vocabulary of my Rumanian colleagues that I accept without reserve their assurance that at the end of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej's speech, everyone was on his feet, crying, 'Long live the Rumanian Workers' Party and its Central Com- mittee, headed by Comrade Gheorghe Gheorghiu- Dej !' I can just hear them. In Rumanian, too.