My Mentor: Brian MacArthur on Sir Denis Hamilton
'His mentoring factor No 1 was his ability to delegate. And he trusted in youth.'
Monday 25 February 2008
I first met Sir Denis Hamilton in 1969, when I was education correspondent of The Times and he was the editor-in-chief and chairman of Times Newspapers Ltd. The Times Educational Supplement was the weekly newspaper of the education world and a massive money-earner for The Times. He decided to launch The Times Higher Education Supplement and summoned me to his office and said: "I'd like you to start this newspaper. You've got three years to make it profitable and you can have a staff of six".
What I found so impressive was that I don't think I saw him again for about four months, until I had the first dummy. His mentoring factor No 1 was his ability to delegate. He also clearly had trust in youth.
When I took up the dummy I knew there was one bad thing about it. He instantly spotted it, which was very irritating but a necessary ability in someone like him.
In those days there used to be a lot of Royal Commissions, and when one came up on teacher training I thought: "Wow. This is fabulous. Let's reprint the whole thing as a supplement to the paper." We did and it had a marvellous effect on circulation. But there was a complaint from the government that we'd ripped it off, as it was copyright of her majesty.
Sir Denis sat there with a twinkle in his eye and asked me if I realised it was copyrighted. I said I had no idea, and I think he was thinking that this was a good thing to do journalistically for the paper and therefore I needed to be forgiven. Not all elder people in newspapers are that understanding of young editors making their way.
I got to know him better in the last years of his life. He was a quite reserved man, with long silences while he digested what you'd said. You'd babble into the vacuum, say things you didn't realise you were saying, and reveal yourself.
Brian MacArthur is a consultant editor at The Daily Telegraph.
Denis Hamilton became the chairman of Reuters after leaving Times Newspapers, and died in 1988.
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