Diary… The end of the holidays


Resetting the routine back at the Guardian

🔹The rollover of silly royal stories never seems to end.

🔹I can’t be sure whether the indistinct sounds coming from the old person on the bus is them speaking in tongues, talking to themselves as a result of some type of dementia, or whether they are holding a perfectly normal phone conversation hands-free.

🔹It was good to be back doing my volunteer shifts at the Guardian today, resetting the routine for 2020.

The entrance is being remodelled and has a yellow hoarding sealing it off.

🔹At the Archive on the 4th Floor of the Kings Place building, I picked up where I left off in December and continued to index the remainder of Don McPhee‘s photographs, mainly shots he exhibited at Manchester Art Gallery.

Among the titles Don himself gave to some of this collection are: ‘Woman In Fur Coat At Student Demo’, ‘Mary Wilson Shakes Hands with John Stonehouse’ and ‘Tony Blair In Coronation Street’.

I also got to see the other shots from the session that produced one of Don’s most famous news photos, from the 1984 ‘Battle of Orgreave’ during the UK Miners’ Strike.

The picture editor of the Guardian obviously chose this frame, but some of the others are equally revealing.

In one, the miner in the toy police helmet turns to face the photographer (Don). In another, he is pictured laughing with the police officer he appears so confrontational with in this shot.

🔹Then it was down in the lift three floors to the Education Centre

Tutor Margaret was delivering advice to that day’s journalism workshop class on copy editing.

They are a group of Year 12 (age 16-17) students from Darlington in Yorkshire. They were bright and full of enthusiasm.

My job is to casually drop in at 1pm to help them write headlines for the fake front pages of an imaginary newspaper they make as part of the workshop.

I tell them that all news headlines should have a strong verb and that the verb they choose will add texture and subtle meaning to the news story.

The example I used today was ‘Liverpool beat Barcelona’ or ‘Liverpool humiliate Barcelona’? The use of ‘humiliate’ tells the reader HOW (ie, in what way) Liverpool beat Barcelona.

The students often ignore my advice and opt instead for time-honored headline tricks – puns and alliteration.

One pair of lads (very pleased with themselves) went for “Smoke suffocates Slovenian sports star”, as if they were playing poker with the letter S. 

This story was about a tennis player who found breathing difficult at the Australian Open.

The raging bushfires the nation is currently suffering were said to be the source of her discomfort.

I hated to point out to them (quite pompously, as it happens) that the player had not in fact suffocated and that accuracy was paramount when reporting the news, even in headlines, which can sometimes be dismissed as decoration. 

The boys responded by then trying to bundle the word ‘staggers’ into the headline, as if that might somehow turn it into the truth.

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