David Meara: 'Fleet Street is a deserted village, full of ghosts and memories'

From an address by the Canon of St Bride's Church, Fleet Street, to mark the departure of the Reuters news group from the area
Click to follow
The Independent Online

From pigeon post to plasma screens and present-day computer and satellite technology - the story of Reuters is an extraordinary one by any standards.

It began over 150 years ago, but then, as now, the guiding watchwords have always been truth, honesty and impartiality.

Indeed, Punch magazine in 1944 adapted the famous phrase of Keats (from his Ode on a Grecian Urn) to declare : "Reuter is truth, truth Reuter - that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know".

Now a new chapter is beginning as you leave your headquarters of the past 65 years and move to Canary Wharf. As you go, I want to reflect on the extraordinary fact that we are gathered in this church.

For over 500 years, since Wynkyn de Worde brought his printing press from Westminster and set it up at the corner of St Bride's Churchyard, this church has been the spiritual home for all involved in printing, newspaper-making, journalism, broadcasting and the wider media world. This church has witnessed the baptisms, marriages and burials of booksellers, writers, journalists, broadcasters and proprietors; we have celebrated the lives of those killed on foreign assignments, among them Farzad Bazoft, John Schofield, Kerem Lawton, Daniel Pearl and Mazan Dana.

We remember in prayer and at the Journalists' Altar journalists whose lives are at risk for speaking the truth and those who have lost their lives covering conflicts around the world, especially in Iraq. Here, in this parish where printing was transformed from a medieval mystery into a mind-moulding mass communicator, you are remembered and your work is valued. It is a unique relationship. Nothing like it exists between the Church and any other of the business and professional groups which have such deep roots in London.

This service has been reported as the last rites of the Old Fleet Street. Fleet Street as the geographical home of the press is a deserted village, full of ghosts and memories. But it remains the generic name for the press, now a virtual community scattered across London and beyond, and St Bride's remains the spiritual home for the industry.