WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
BELIEVE IT OR NOT, journalists are often at a loss for words. If they can produce a definitive “intro” – the first sentence or paragraph of a report – the rest flows easily. But producing a biting intro is often screamingly difficult and has often driven even Piker to drink...
So Piker’s indebted to journalist (and now publisher) Revel Barker for tackling this frustrating aspect in a recent “blog” on Gentlemen Ranters, a vehicle provided to crusty old hacks to reminisce about their bibulous glory days.
Barker writes: “I don’t remember many of my own intros (I was rather pleased with describing a man appointed keeper of the Queen’s pigeons as ‘the last person who’d object to being called bird-brained’). And I still cringe when I recall reporting a bakers’ syndicate that scooped the jackpot on Littlewood’s football pools as finding itself ‘in the dough’. Perhaps the others weren’t especially memorable; but I can recall several other people’s.
“Stan Blenkinsop ( Daily Express),
on a failed planning application: ‘ A city’s library has been brought to book because one of its storeys was too tall.’
“Laurie Taylor ( Daily Sketch), on a poor reception for boxer Joe Louis attempting a cabaret act: ‘The Brown Bomber took a boxoffice nosedive last night.’
“Alf Gibbon ( Daily Mirror), describing a part-time inventor who found inspiration while working in a signal box as ‘the railwayman who had ideas above his station’…
“Even one by Mike Cable ( Daily Mail) that didn’t make it into print: ‘Blyth is a tiny seaport on the north-east coast where even the seagulls are known by name.’
“Every intro Vince Mulchrone ( Daily Mail) wrote was a gem. I remember this one: ‘I do believe I’m about to write what may be the most beautiful sentence in the English language.’ About 12 paragraphs later the sentence – ‘the five happiest words I’ve written’ – was revealed as ‘The customers bought the pub’.”
“When Roy Greenslade picked up on Ranters’ intro pieces he described the Bible – ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth’– as being difficult to beat. But he recalled football writer Harry Harris ( Daily Mirror) opening with: ‘Here in Jerusalem, birthplace of the legendary Jesus Christ...’
“Which prompted one of his readers to offer another Harris intro: ‘From my hotel room overlooking Mount Everest...’
“And another who remembered (former Sun Kelvin McKenzie, writing in the Daily Telegraph: ‘On Sundays, I do what most people do. I don’t buy the Independent on Sunday’.”