Letter from the editor

Share
Related Topics
IN Rosie's absence on a well-earned holiday in Normandy, I've had the pleasure of occupying the editor's chair these past few days. Pleasure is the wrong word: it has been a delight, not least because this has been one of those occasions when you feel privileged to have been a journalist, to have been a witness to history being made, to have brought momentous events into people's homes.

I refer, of course to Ulster - not to the "Colonel and the Wren" case, which judging from some of our rivals' acres of coverage on Friday morning, was more significant than the nail-biting negotiations in Stormont.

On Thursday, with the deadline for the talks only hours away, I decided to devote most of the front page and pages two and three to Ulster. I could have gone in another direction and pumped up other stories. In which case, what would they be? George Michael? The Wren? Interesting and certainly entertaining, but not for the front - not for The Independent. Down the years of reporting the Troubles, in David McKittrick we have been blessed with the finest commentator. Our Ulster coverage has always been second to none.

Our rivals stood back. While we ear-marked pages one, two and three, come what may, they appeared less certain. Their solution, reflected in their early editions, was to give over masses of space to the Wren and to other light stories, which presumably, had there been a deal in Ulster, would have drastically diminished as the night went on.

But I felt that even without a deal, Ulster was still the only real story in town and would dominate Good Friday.

"Without a deal" - those were the words that haunted me on Thursday night. We had until 2am, when we finally closed the paper, to get the message right. But what could we say that would survive the morning? What if, God forbid, there was a deal at 2.05am? Did we want an upbeat or downbeat picture on the front page? Imagine if the talks collapsed suddenly at 4am and our newspaper came thudding through letter boxes a few hours later bearing an optimistic headline and a smiling Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern? It did not bear thinking about.

I confess, we sat on the fence. After rejecting an excellent picture of Blair, looking haggard and sleep-deprived, on the basis that his appearance would instantly change if a deal was struck and morning television viewers might see a beaming Prime Minister on their screens in sharp contrast to our instantly dated, sombre portrait, I was all set to go with a picture of Belfast children raising their hands in "V for Victory" signs.

It was a good picture that signified the aspirations and innocence of future generations. But we could be horribly wrong. Would those same children still be feeling victorious on Good Friday morning if the talks had fallen apart in the small hours after we had put the paper to bed?

Then, on the Picture Editor's screen, I spotted a snap of Blair and Mo Mowlam together, inside Stormont. They were sitting in a negotiating room, the table littered with the debris of hours of discussion: papers, mineral water bottle, six tea-cups, milk jug, salt and pepper pots. It was an intimate shot that took us behind the news, inside Stormont. Fortunately they were neither smiling nor gloomy, just focused and serious.

That was the picture. Then, the headline. "Eyes of the world on Ulster" - not dramatic enough. I liked, "Up to the wire and beyond", but it could look stale if a deal was struck by the time the paper landed. "Ireland's hope for a new dawn" - strong, reflects both a sense of moment and a mood of expectation, and afforded some protection if the whole process broke down. That was the headline. That was the paper on the day Ulster had a peace settlement.

CHRIS BLACKHURST, Deputy Editor

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

 

Political satire is funny, but it also causes cynicism and apathy

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links