J W M Thompson

What do you print that for?

Sundry Times

By

John Murray 262 pp £13.95 order from our bookshop

I used to meet Frank Giles from time to time when he was editing the Sunday Times and I was editing the Sunday Telegraph. He always made an agreeable impression – unstuffy, humorous and civilized – as indeed does this book. Yet he seemed a most improbable man to be the conductor of that particular journalistic band. The Sunday Times under Giles’s predecessor, Harry Evans, had evolved from the polite but rather dull paper owned by Lord Kemsley into a much more aggressive sheet which had cultivated a nagging anti-Establishment tone. Frank Giles, by contrast, struck me as essentially an Establishment man. His nine months in the Foreign Office and his wartime stint as ADC to the Governor of Bermuda seemed to have moulded him more firmly than his years in Grub Street. It was quite a shock to find this urbane type running a paper which prided itself upon being the country’s principal muck-raker.

I now gather from Giles’s autobiography that the role came as a surprise to him as well when it fell to him at the end of his career. He will probably be irritated to think that for many of his readers the first three-quarters of his book will be overshadowed by the closing chapters; but as a newspaperman he will expect the reader to pass briskly through his graceful memoirs of the higher journalism in various capital cities, to get down to the shock-horror stuff about his life with Rupert Murdoch. Such is human curiosity. For many years Giles worked away in busy but evidently harmonious circumstances as a correspondent for the old Times; he mingled with the right people in Paris or Rome, frequented the right dinner tables, and enjoyed a certain status. He was aged sixty-two when Times Newspapers was acquired by a new proprietor, Rupert Murdoch. After that everything changed.

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