Alan Cowell in a Letter from Britain published in the International Herald Tribune yesterday delivers a lovely eulogy to Fleet Street recalling its glory days when it was home to the major London newspapers. He writes:
"It was a place whose mythology was written in terms of truth and glory, scoops and lies, and whose disclosures brought down cabinet ministers, titillated the masses and invited enormous libel suits. Once the hub of a sharp-elbowed, ferociously competitive newspaper industry, it was a place that blended boastful seediness and tainted pride: nobility was never Fleet Street’s strongest suit.
"Now The Street of Shame is no more than a geographic concept, an address in London E.C.4 between St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Law Courts inhabited by lawyers and bankers. The final, formal break with the giants of British journalism came earlier this month (June) when Reuters, the international information agency, held a memorial service at St. Bride’s Church – the Street’s own temple to something other than Mammon – to commemorate the end of its 66 years’ residence at No. 85 and its move to the distant, high-rise reaches of Canary Wharf."
Lovely writing. On a more personal note, he adds:
"I worked at Reuters for almost a decade. To my knowledge I was the last – or, as journalists prefer to say, one of the last – Reuters correspondents to file a dispatch by carrier pigeon. That was some years ago (or, as journalists prefer not to say, many years ago) and the birds that flew my dispatches in Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland revived the means of pretechnological communication first used by Reuters in the mid-19th century."
How quaint? How funny if you look at the ending, where Cowell quotes an epigram by Humbert Wolfe, an early 20th century poet:
"You cannot hope
to bribe or twist,
thank God! The
But, seeing what
the man will do
no occasion to."