Why this Blog?

A place where I can lament the changing times; for eccentric comments on current affairs and for unfashionable views, expressed I hope, in cogent style; also occasional cris de coeur largely concerned, I regret to say, with myself.


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Saturday 1 March 2008


It was announced today that a former Associated Press newsman, Donald McNicholl has died today at the ripe old age of 93. It seems that he was extraordinarily competent if this quote is anything to go by:

A vivid picture of McNicoll at work was drawn by the late South African journalist and anti-apartheid activist Donald Woods in his 1980 autobiography, "Asking for Trouble." Woods described what he called a "harrowing interview" with McNicoll while seeking a job with the AP in London.

"McNicoll seemed to be doing several things at once, mentally subediting running copy from a teletype machine on to his typewriter while answering questions from a succession of journalists. ... Three or four of the journalists waited in line for such guidance, which McNicoll gave out of the corner of his mouth without looking up from his typing or his reading of the telex," Woods wrote.

When McNicoll found out that Woods was 24 and without journalistic experience in Britain, he announced to everyone within hearing that he must be a genius to consider himself ready to join AP.

Exclaiming, "I'll soon find out!" McNicoll plucked a thick handful of stories and told Woods to edit them in exactly one hour: "Tight, mind! Not one unnecessary word."

Woods gave back half the stories and did the tightest editing job he could for the next hour on the rest, he wrote.

McNicoll took the edited stories, "picked up a red pencil and, while continuing to answer queries from various staff men who advanced to his desk, went through my copy with the red pencil, flying over the pages, leaving savage gashes here, fresh paragraph marks there, tearing out and rewriting great swathes of words and working through the pile in 15 minutes."

McNicoll had effortlessly tightened the editing by more than half, "leaving out no essential element of any story and vastly improving the wording," Woods wrote. He didn't get the job.

Here's the full article.

I wish I could do that...

Until the next time

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