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0 A lesson in crime reporting

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  • by Gavin Weightman
  • 28-07-2011
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A guest blog from my old friend and colleague on New Society magazine in the 1970s David White. We had been exchanging stories about crime reporting in the old is his: 


My contact with police on the Daily Mirror in 1969 was slight but memorable. Before transferring to the Mirror Magazine, the Mirror's weekly colour supplement, I was attached to the Daily Mirror newsroom as an early form of intern. It was suggested that I might learn something if I shadowed their senior crime reporter . This man and his boss comprised the grandly named Daily Mirror Crime Bureau. Both were ex-Met officers. One a huge, self-important man with crinkly black hair. The other I remember as also large but less pleased with himself, and quite happy to have a beginner at his elbow. 

When a body was discovered on Wimbledon Common one morning, the crime reporter and I were sent off to cover the story. It was quickly established by the huddle of police at the scene that this was a gay killing, nothing out of the ordinary, hardly worth a line, and that the important thing was to get over to the pub before they called time. "The first thing you need to find out on any case is which pub the police are drinking at," was the tip I was given if I wanted to be a crime reporter. In the saloon bar of a Wimbledon watering hole, my mentor and his former police colleagues settled down for a steady mid-day drinking session. The murder was hardly mentioned. Mostly the conversation was about the Met - what so and so was up to and what wotsisname was doing now. The drinking went on well beyond time. 

Finally, at about 4.30pm the reporter found his car and wove back to High Holborn. Back in the office, he struggled to push triplicate copy paper into his Bluebird, hit a few keys, missed most. Finally he gave up. "Get us the PA story, will you", he muttered. The result was a couple of paragraphs from the Daily Mirror Crime Bureau, summarising the Press Association's account of the incident. Innocent days.