2019 January-June

By MICHAEL HOLMAN, Africa Editor, 

Financial Times

I’ve just checked in

I forgot to call you; or — I’ve just woken up

I’ve just got in

S/he’s been playing tennis

My computer is giving trouble

S/he’s had another long lunch

It’s rather complicated

He/she doesn’t understand the story

There’s someone I need to speak to

They definitely don’t understand the story

I’ll have to make a few calls first

I have to call Reuters

Not to my knowledge; or It’s hard too say at this stage

I haven’t a clue

The story won’t hold

I got the story from the Guardian correspondent

I’ve managed to get a copy of the communiqué

I have been given a copy of the Press release 

Who edited today’s story?

What the hell have you done to my copy?

Note: The above sequence is sometimes inadvertently transposed by excitable correspondents

I TOLD switchboard where I’d be

I forgot to tell switchboard where I’d be

I wrote that a year ago

I’ve missed the story

I’ll keep it short

I’ll write 500

The BBC and Guardian plan to cover it

The BBC and Guardian also want to get out of the office

Really? I thought it was a two-hour difference

My copy is going to be late

Lines are terrible

My copy is going to be late

There are only six phones

My copy is going to be very late

I’m working from home

I’m taking the day off

My computer is playing up

I’m going to miss the first edition

No-one else here is interested

I want to stay home this weekend

The flights are full

I’ll have to travel business class

The hotel is lousy

My room doesn’t overlook the beach

It’s worth staying on

I’m enjoying the company of the ambassador’s secretary

I’m staying on to cover the drought

I’m enjoying the company of an aid worker

I’ve just checked in

I forgot to call you; or I’ve just woken up


Informed source — any hack

Well-informed source — any hack corroborated by taxi driver

Diplomatic source — When two hacks agree

Official sources — Reuters

One of my sources — embassy Press officer


It’s all there

It needs a complete rewrite

It needs rejigging

The desk will have to rewrite it

It needs more work

You have to rewrite it

The intro’s not quite right

The intro is wrong 

Could we move the sixth par higher?

You’ve missed the lead

Could we have a paragraph high up saying …

The news editor has sent the story back

Is there another way of saying…?

As above

Bob’s looking at it, or alternatively Bob’s pulling it together

It’s being rewritten

In this context:

Bob, what’s the weather like?

Have you forgotten everything they taught you at Reuters?

Caroline wants a word

Not only have you stuffed up the intro, you’ve got the whole story wrong

In this context:




You’ve really screwed up

It’s already gone through

We’re not going to change it

Might need to cut it a bit

It’s becoming a brief

No problems


Looks all right to me

Effusive praise

Can it hold for Monday? (said on Friday)

Is it boring?

We’re holding it for Monday

It is boring

He/she’s not around at the moment

He/she’s sought sanctuary and is reading the Standard

In this context:

I’m just looking at it now

Where the hell is it?

Followed by:

I’ll come back to you

I should have read it, I can’t find it, and quite frankly I’ve forgotten what it was that I asked you to file

They’re asking for it (outside story) early

I want to go home/to the pub

It’s a very bad line

Unfortunately I can hear you all too clearly

The other line is going

You’ve got 10 seconds to wind up

We’re a bit pressed

We’ve got more important stories

We’re tight on space

There’s no room for Africa

I’ve been trying to get through for ages

I forgot to return your call

Didn’t you get my message?

I should have rung you earlier

Perhaps we could do it this way

We’ll do it my way

As distinct from:


That’s a great story

(The subtle tonal variations which distinguish one ‘really’ from another cannot be conveyed in text)

EXPRESS Newspapers are understood to  have reached a substantial out-of-court settlement with veteran football writer Colin Mafham whom they fired for criticising some Liverpool football fans.

The undisclosed pay-out, which followed previously rejected offers, is also believed to have been accompanied by an "expression of regret" from Reach plc, who now own the Express group.

The deal ends a legal battle which Mafham launched last year after Express editor Gary Jones, himself a Liverpool supporter, ordered the reporter's suspension and publicly apologised for his comments in an online opinion column published by the newspaper last April.

Mafham was later sacked for alleged "gross misconduct", and his appeal against unfair dismissal was due  to be heard by an industrial tribunal judge last month.

He is unable to comment on the case, and the controversial role the Reach-owned Liverpool Echo allegedly played in it when its head of sport, David Prentice, sparked a Twitter storm among fans with his reaction to Mafham's criticism.

It also appears to have brought a climbdown by Reach in relation to long-term freelance contributors, which Mafham effectively was for more than 13 years.

In a new raft of redundancies involving mostly Express and Daily Star journalists Reach, which also owns the Daily and Sunday Mirror and The People, is offering some long-servers "staff" status under which they will receive severance pay and redundancy benefits not previously offered.


REVENUES at Reach, publisher of the Express, Star and Mirror, grew 4.4 per cent year-on-year in the first four months of 2019, the company announced.

But the encouraging figures have come at a huge human cost, following compulsory redundancies and increased stress for existing staff.

The company said in a trading update ahead of its annual meeting that the growth reflected the effect of the £127m acquisition of the Express and Star titles, in February last year.

If the titles had been owned by Reach from the start of 2018, group revenue fell by 6.4 per cent year-on-year between 31 December and 28 April.

Reach said this was an improvement on a 7.8 per cent fall in the first four months of 2018.

Digital revenue grew by 8.4 per cent, while print revenues from circulation, advertising and third-party printing contracts, fell by 7.9 per cent.

The publisher said it remains on track to make at least £20m in annual savings by 2020.

A delegation from the National Union of Journalists attended the Reach AGM and urged for more support to be given to staff to help them work through the annual cost savings.

“These changes can often be extremely distressing for employees and if sufficient care is not given, stress caused can literally be a matter of life and death,” the NUJ Reach group chapel said in a letter to shareholders.

“So we hope you would support better management of stress and mental health in Reach workplaces.”

Reach chief executive Simon Fox said: “I am pleased with the solid start to the year and the positive improvement in revenue trends.

“Our early term loan repayment demonstrates the continued success of the Express and Star acquisition and the strong cash generation of the group.

“We also continue to make good strategic progress, most importantly with a range of digital projects to drive both page views and revenue, the effects of which we expect to see in the second half of the year.”

A loan taken out for the Express Newspapers acquisition was reduced to £39.7m after £20.3m due in December 2019 was paid back early.

The company’s net debt is now at £22.2m with cash balances of £17.5m.

In 2018 Reach made adjusted revenues of £723.9m and profit before tax of £141.9m, both figures up by 16 per cent year-on-year.

Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire


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Screenshot 2019-03-30 at 16.17.04

ANOTHER body blow has been dealt to Express staff  after plans were announced to halve jobs on the Sunday paper.

The move, which reduces staff numbers to less than 10 follows cuts under Mirror publisher Reach, which bought the Express and Star titles last year as part of a £128m deal.

Sunday Express Martin Townsend, who was sacked last year after 17 years, has not been replaced.

In another development, Reach has confirmed the Daily and Sunday Express news teams will move to join the Mirror at Canary Wharf while the Mirror sport desk and magazine and supplement teams will be based at the Express offices at Lower Thames Street.

Several senior journalists have left the Sunday Express, including arts editor Clair Woodward, picture editor Jim Selby and a news reporter, according to Press Gazette.

The paper’s assistant editor James Murray and diarist Adam Helliker have both moved over to the Daily Express, while travel editor Jane Memmler has been appointed deputy travel editor for the whole group.

Following the departure of  Martin Townsend, who left to join a PR firm last August, the paper has been edited by Michael Booker in his role as weekend editor and deputy editor.

One source said: “The paper is run by a sort of communist committee of [Express editor] Gary [Jones] at the top, deputy [editor] Caroline Waterston and under them is Michael Booker.”

There are rumours of another wave of redundancies in April, with the Sunday Express potentially to be further affected.

The source predicted  the “virtual amalgamation” of the Daily and Sunday Express and said Mirror journalists would also increasingly be writing for the Express when news teams occupy the same building.

The atmosphere in the newsroom is still toxic. “Express staff very much feel second best to Mirror and People employees.”

The source added: “No-one can quite work out what the game  plan is. It’s very odd to have bought the whole thing and shave all the talent off. It makes for a homogenous group of papers with no real character.”

Another source said: “The old Mirror people come first. There aren’t many Express people left who have an executive role – they have got rid of them now.

“The Sunday Express is losing its identity and that’s a bit of a shame. The new management are trying to keep their readership, but they don’t understand what it is. How many more interviews with Joan Collins can you have?

“Sunday papers need a particular identity and when all the teams merge as one we lose that.

“Although I didn’t love the Sunday Express’ politics, it did have an arm around the shoulder flavour. It’s now going for these fear stories. Older readers want something a bit nicer than that.”


Screenshot 2019-03-30 at 16.03.54

We are sad to report the death of Marie Louise Windeler, star of a famous 1971 Coca-Cola TV advert and a former secretary on the Daily Express William Hickey desk. She was 65.

Marie Louise, who had been suffering from dementia, was known as O’lene on the Express and has been described as “a joyous presence”. After she left the Express in the 1970s she had a glittering career in public relations.

She leaves a husband Henry, children Holly and Alice, two sisters Victoria and Juliette and a brother Rupert.

Donations to Race Against Dementia gratefully received at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/MarieLouiseWindeler

*The television commercial in which Marie Louise appeared was the groundbreaking “Buy the World a Coke" ad which became so popular that the New Seekers re-recorded it as the pop song I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony) which became a big hit in the UK and the US.




To: Lord Drone

From: Women’s Department 

CC: the Editor

Date: 04.03.2019

Your Grace,

Is there any chance your lordship could introduce a Forced Hugging Policy on the Daily Drone? We feel that it would enhance our working environment and raise morale on the editorial floor, especially if that hunk Muldoon were involved.

We assure you of our respectful and undivided loyalty at all times.



From the desk of Lord Drone

To: Women’s Department 

From: His lordship’s personal assistant

CC: the Editor

Date: 04.03.2019

His lordship has asked me to inform you that to volunteer for a Forced Hugging Policy on the Daily Drone is, manifestly, an oxymoron and, consequently, your request is denied. Although Lord Drone acknowledges your expression of loyalty, he instructs you to get on with your work.


© 2005-2022 Alastair McIntyre