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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Harry cuts to the chase

Harold Evans's autobiography Paper Chase is a real walk down memory lane, a compelling piece of social history and a timely reminder of newspapers and journalism at their most colourful. But what is striking is how much is still relevant. It should be compulsory reading for all regional paper journalists.

On headlines: My first edict as editor (on The Northern Echo); place names are to be dropped from headlines. The editor's memo explained the main effect of place names was to deter the circle of readers who didn't live there, ie, the vast majority.

On photographs: I had developed a toothache looking at the pictures in the paper. There were innumerable small 'grip and grin' photographs of retirement ceremonies, flower shows, well-equipped bulls, empty buildings, councillors on rostrums. I couldn't believe they represented the changing dramas and personalities in the region ...

On typography: I am addicted to print. An addiction to print means you get your fix by looking at the shapes of letters in type even when the words don't make any sense. I savour the design of letters, the ascenders piercing the skyline, the fugues created by the descenders. Today I waste emotional energy nursing grievances about the migraine-inducing type on medicine bottles and the ridiculously emaciated compressed capital letters of credits on DVD boxes. What are they trying to hide?

The book is a reminder of why so many journalists were inspired by the man ... and why editors voted him the best UK editor of all time. The cover price is £25 but Amazon have it for sale for £13.78. My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times. An autobiography by Harold Evans.

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