A job too well done for comfort

First published in From The Editor's Chair The Northern Echo: Blog: Editor Peter Barron by

IF I’m honest, I didn’t expect the Bishop of Durham to be quite so diligent about his role as guest editor of The Northern Echo.

As it happened, the Right Reverend Justin Welby was hard at it until past 9pm, having started before 10am.

He had strong views about the questions he wanted the journalists to ask: What were the North-East implications of figures showing that the UK economy shrank more than expected at the end of last year? How did the North-East fare in a study showing that the national death rate from heart attacks had halved in the past decade? How had the North-East been affected by cuts in the number of police officers across Britain?

In between running two news conferences, he managed to speak at a Holocaust Memorial Ceremony and help launch The Northern Echo’s Foundation For Jobs campaign, aimed at helping young people into work.

He wrote a feature about the challenges facing the region, as well as the day’s editorial comment. He then stayed until he was happy with his front page before thanking the staff for their efforts and patience.

I was asked on Twitter if the Bishop really had called the shots as guest editor. I was able to reply in all honesty that his decisions genuinely had shaped Friday’s paper.

Hard-nosed journalists don’t suffer fools gladly but post-Bishop comments in the newsroom were complimentary: down to earth, personable, sharp, and good fun.

“Great paper today,” remarked the managing director on Friday morning.

If you ask me, it was all a bit too positive.

I won’t be asking the Bishop of Durham back in a hurry. I may, however, take up his offer to try my hand at preaching.

THE Headline Challenge is a daily duty of the incumbent of the editor’s chair.

It is played on BBC Tees every weekday morning. I, as editor, choose a story with a funny headline and BBC Tees listeners have to try to come up with something better.

So there we were, with the Bishop at the helm, trying to come up with a decent headline for the following morning’s challenge.

The story involved Austrian scientists discovering that love-struck male mice “serenade”

females with high-pitched songs.

It called for a rodent-related love song and the editorial dialogue went like this: Chief sub-editor: “You can’t scurry love.”

Me: “Cheese release me.”

Chief sub-editor: “That’s not a love song, it’s a break-up song.”

Me: “Not necessarily, the mouse could be getting rid of one partner in order to woo another.”

The Bishop (straight-faced): “Isn’t that promoting mouse promiscuity?”

It may be the most bizarre exchange in the history of The Northern Echo’s newsroom.

FINALLY, a major embarrassment was avoided without the need to bring it to the attention of our esteemed guest editor.

Newspaper stories are printed in columns and the computer automatically hyphenates words to split them over two lines.

The first four lines of the latest report on the Harry Redknapp tax evasion trial were originally set like this:

Harry Redknapp said he
was sick and tired of bung-
slurs and claimed he was vic-
timised because of his Cock-
ney accent, a court heard.

A proof-reader saved the day by swiftly joining up “Cockney accent” – it was blessed relief.


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