Letter from the editor: The real life of an editor

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The Independent Online

When I meet people from outside the world of newspapers, I am struck by the difference between their version of the life of a newspaper editor and the reality.

For instance, those who care to consider such a banal proposition believe that an editor arrives in the office mid-morning, has a discussion with their brainiest colleagues about what the editorial line should be on, say, tuition fees, goes to lunch with a Cabinet minister, comes back to the office, has a short snooze induced by some decent claret, and, after reading the leaders and handing down a few edicts about the front page, heads off to the Garrick Club for a game of snooker with a High Court judge.

This is a version of the newspaper editor derived largely from fictional works. However, there are elements of this caricature that ring true: we do have a very privileged life, we are prone to didacticism, and I try to fit in a brief afternoon nap (not fuelled by red wine, I hasten to add, and on Department of Health advice).

Also, I have been known to have lunch. But times have changed. Yesterday, I had lunch with one of the titans of the media world, a celebrated former editor, a man twice as large as life, not known for his temperance. We had a virgin Mary each, followed by two glasses of water (still). He had a beetroot salad, and I had a grilled sole with a side salad.

We both then had to rush off for meetings. We could have been systems analysts or accountants: nothing could be further from the popular image of journalistic folk. Of course, we talked about the old days, and our tourd’horizon ended with my guest explaining “seagull management” to me. “They fly in, s*** on you and fly out again”. Cheers!