The Hitler Diaries – the farce of the century

February 6, 2016
The Observer Magazine cover shows Alexei Sayle as the Hitler diaries forger in the 1991 TV series Selling Hitler

The Observer Magazine cover shows Alexei Sayle as the Hitler diaries forger in the 1991 TV series Selling Hitler

I mentioned the farce of the Hitler diaries the other day, and how in 1983 the German news magazine Stern, Newsweek in the US and the Sunday Times were duped into paying a fortune for the rights to publish what was supposed to be the find of the century – Adolf Hitler’s personal diaries. The Observer, a rival Sunday paper, must have great fun running this cover on its supplement about the 1991 TV series – Selling Hitler – made about the fiasco.

The cover shows Alexei Sayle as Hitler fanatic Konrad Kujau, the forger who called himself Peter Fischer; Alan Bennett as Hugh Trevor-Roper (Lord Dacre), who authenticated the diaries for the Sunday Times, and Barry Humphries (best known as Dame Edna Everadge) as Rupert Murdoch. The choice of such comic-leaning actors shows how the programme took a mocking line.

The series was based on Robert Harris’s book Selling Hitler: The Story of the Hitler Diaries. This is a brilliant exposé of how Kujau touted the diaries to veteran Stern reporter Gert Heideman (played by Jonathan Pryce), who believes he has stumbled on the literary find of the century. The managers at Stern try to pull off a scoop – paying $5 million in secret over months for the 60 volumes of diaries, which Kujau can hardly make up fast enough. However, they ignore tell-tale pointers that the diaries are crude forgeries because they are blinded by greed.

The scandal has become a Fleet Street legend and made the Sunday Times and Times the butt of many a joke in the 1980s and since. It is often referred to – as in the example below. During the bitter battle between Robert Maxwell and Private Eye magazine in 1986, the thieving newspaper owner bought out a spoof satirical magazine showing Hitler with Eye editor Richard Ingrams as Göring.  Note the strapline: ‘Definitely authentic’ – Lord Dacre.

Maxwell's Not Private Eye: note the strap 'Definitely authentic' - Lord Dacre'

Maxwell’s Not Private Eye. Note the strap: ‘Definitely authentic – Lord Dacre’

See more on: UK newspapers

Not Private Eye

A newspaper’s last big story

February 6, 2016
The last edition of London's Evening News on 31 October 1980

The last edition of London’s Evening News on 31 October 1980

As this splash on London’s Evening News demonstrates, a newspaper’s last big story is its own demise. This front page was 31 October 1980. That day, the copytaster – the person who watches the news agency wires to spot any stories the paper should be carrying – was Robin Elias, and he was the first of the staff to know of the closure. It must have been particularly galling for a paper in its 99th year. Luckily for him, he got a job as night editor on ITV’s News at Ten and went on to become managing editor there.

It was a surprise reading that your paper would be closing from the Press Association! Yet, that may well be the situation many journalists are expecting at the moment as cost-cutting proprietors wind down their print editions in favour of digital.

Last issue of US picture weekly Life (29 December 1972)

Last issue of US picture weekly Life (29 December 1972)

The US picture weekly Life took a different tack to the Evening News, with no mention of the closure on the cover of its last issue (29 December 1972). However, this may well be because the cover was ready before the closure was announced by its owners, Time Inc. Instead, editor Hedley Donovan carried a full-page editorial on the weekly magazine’s closure on the first inside page.

Editor Hedley Donovan's final editorial on Life magazine's closure

Editor Hedley Donovan’s final editorial on Life magazine’s closure

As he says readers have reminded him, the magazine had not failed. It had, after all, lasted almost 40 years and been one of the biggest-selling titles in the US for that time.

Last issue of Rupert Murdoch's Today newspaper (17 November 1995) 

Last issue of Rupert Murdoch’s Today newspaper (17 November 1995)

Today took a similar tack to the Evening News with its closure in 1995. This would have been less unexpected, given that it had outlived its usefulness to Rupert Murdoch in helping him break out of hot metal in Fleet Street and into the electronic makeup era at Wapping. It was a paper with a short history – having been launched by Eddie Shah on 4 March 1986. Shah had won a vicious industrial relations battle against the NGA, the print union, in his Warrington freesheet newspaper group and then launched Today as a national colour tabloid using new technology. It had a target sale of 1.2 million copies, but rarely exceeded a third of this figure. One editor, David Montgomery, resigned after printing an apology to readers for the poor quality of the paper.

Promotional copy of the Sun inside the final issue of Today - with a message from Tony Blair

Promotional copy of the Sun inside the final issue of Today – with a message from Tony Blair

Murdoch wasn’t going to lose Today’s readers easily though and inside was a promotional copy of the Sun – complete with a top-of-the-page story written by Tony Blair and headlined ‘Why Labour readers are turning to the Sun‘. Today had taken a leftish editorial stance, while the Sun was traditionally rightwing, but switched allegiance when Blair established a rapport with Murdoch.

>>>UK newspapers

 

The surprising revival of Hitler and Mussolini

February 4, 2016
Mussolini writes for the right-wing Britannia magazine in 1927

Mussolini writes for the launch issue of the right-wing Britannia magazine in 1928

This year’s republished edition of Hitler’s Mein Kampf has been a sell-out in Germany – and has led to Mussolini’s publishers jumping on the bandwagon. The book has been banned there since the war, but Mein Kampf was serialised as a part work in Britain at the start of the conflict with the royalties going to the Red Cross.

Such has been the trumpeting in Germany that there’s even talk of demolishing Goering’s old home to prevent it becoming a rallying point for neo-Nazis. The farce of Nazi worship was well shown up by the saga over the Hitler’s diaries back in 1980 – and by Monty Python in its Mr Hilter sketches! The Robert Harris book Selling Hitler: The Story of the Hitler Diaries is brilliant at dissecting how the likes of Stern magazine and the Sunday Times were duped.

Of course, Mussolini is less known as a writer than Hitler, but as you can see with the above cover of Britannia from 1928, he did venture into print and the two pages of the article, ‘My life’  are shown below. The standfirst suggests that Gilbert Frankau, the editor, a poet and novelist, who had started writing as an officer in the Great War for The Wipers Times, was a big supporter of Italy’s fascist leader:

Here, Benito Mussolini, indubitably the greatest figure of post-war Europe, reveals from his own pen his own life. That it is my privilege to be the first to give these pages to the British public is, I think, one of the highest auguries for Britannia‘s success – G.F.

My Life by Benito Mussolini

‘My Life’ by Benito Mussolini

The caption to the portrait by (Edmond) Kapp suggests Mussolini must have liked the work because it states it was the only one he ever signed.

My Life by Benito Mussolini - with Il Duce's writing reproduced

My Life by Benito Mussolini – with Il Duce’s writing reproduced

Other writers pushed on the cover included Arnold Bennett – ‘the Edwardian David Bowie’ according to the BBC – and former Conservative chancellor Lord Birkenhead.

 

A happy end to a magazine

February 3, 2016
Last issue of Amalgamated Press's War Illustrated on 8 February 1919

No sad ending: the last issue of Amalgamated Press’s War Illustrated on 8 February 1919. Allies from the Empire (to the left) and Europe are portrayed with a statue of Victory

The demise of a magazine is normally a sad time but note the cover line below this image on the front of War Illustrated from 1919: ‘The Happy End’. The cheery angle came about because this issue marked the end of the Great War after more than four years of slaughter. Also, the magazine was about to rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of closure with a different name – New Illustrated – the next week. In essence, it was being relaunched with a different name and editorial strategy under its editor JA Hammerton.

Alfred Harmsworth’s Amalgamated Press had a winning team on its hands under Hammerton and the back cover ran his editorial ‘An end and a beginning’, along with an order coupon for the next issue. Yet, relaunching a magazine is always a challenge – keeping the established readership while attracting new buyers is very difficult.

John Hammerton was one of the most successful editors of his generation. He is best known for his work with Arthur Mee producing magazines and partworks that were then republished as some of the best selling books of the day. These included the Harmsworth Self-Educator, Harmsworth’s Universal Encyclopædia and the Children’s Encyclopaedia. In 1933, his Popular History of the Great War was published in six volumes. So, Hammerton set about the task of changing the editorial philosophy of War Illustrated from one of recording a war’s progress to creating New Illustrated as ‘a fascinating pageant of the living history of our own times’.

First, the changes were announced several weeks in advance with a competition to come up with a name for the relaunched magazine – and a tempting £100 prize. This was at a time when a soldier’s pay was about £1 a week, so such a fortune was great publicity. For a month, the back page ran its editorial focusing on the idea with introductions such as: ‘Some of my readers have asked me to help them think of a title for the successor to the War Illustrated … I am yielding to the requests that have reached me by giving a very brief outline of my scheme.’ (By ‘very brief’ Hammerton means the whole of the back page.)

The War Illustrated was launched to record the progress of the war in photographs and illustrations and was designed to be bound into annual volumes. The format was an A4-ish page size on newsprint. Each issue was 32 sides plus the covers (wrappers in the language of the day) and they were numbered sequentially: issue one, 1-32; issue two, 33-64, and so on. Later issues added a four-page centre section printed gravure, which gave a much better reproduction for photographs and raised the pagination to 36 plus 4.

New Illustrated kept to this format and initially looked little different. The volume strategy was still in place with the new title being seen as a ‘continuous sequel’ to War Illustrated. However, as the issues went on, the martial content was slowly decreased. In April, a marked shift took place with a switch to gravure covers. Hammerton announced:

there is nothing quite so costly as the photogravure process which the New Illustrated is introducing for the first time to popular British journalism

Very good artists were always used, such as Harry Rodmell and Francisco Sancha, and the photographs would have looked amazing at the time. May saw a woman on a cover – Lady Diana Manners dressed as Britannia. Manners was one of the leading socialites of the day, and is better remembered today under her married name of Lady Diana Cooper (or as the great aunt of Tory prime minister David Cameron).

From June, the covers always showed women and colour was introduced with dazzling designs befitting the start of the Jazz Age and illustrations by artists such as Billy Bunter illustrator Leonard Shields and photographs by Lallie Charles – who, with her sister Rita, was one of the most successful portraitists of the early 1900s. The women portrayed were shown in the latest fashions, or at parties or at play in the snow, or using the latest technology in the form of the telephone.

New Illustrated starts to change its name to Record Weekly in 1920 (January 17 issue)

New Illustrated starts to change its name to Record Weekly in 1920 (January 17 issue)

However, depression set in as the economy struggled to switch from wartime to peacetime thinking with millions of demobbed troops looking for work. So the start of 1920 saw another relaunch in progress. The masthead became ‘The Record New Illustrated Weekly’, though with the emphasis still on ‘New Illustrated’. With each issue, the emphasis changed until Record Weekly fully emerged from its chrysalis in March. However, the strategy failed and 20 March saw the last issue.

This might finally have been the end of War Illustrated, had not an Austrian painter called Adolph Hitler come along to give rise to World War II. Hammerton – by then Sir John Hammerton – dusted off the War Illustrated strategy and the magazine rose again to record that conflict in a similar way.

EF Skinner's signature on the War Illustrated illustration (8 February 1919)

EF Skinner’s signature on War Illustrated (8 February 1919)

The illustration for the last issue of War Illustrated is by Edward Frederick Skinner, whose works are held by both the Science Museum and the Imperial War Museum. These paintings all depict industry and factories harnessed to the needs of war, but Skinner was a varied and sought-after artist, as the Father Christmas image and the lengthily titled ‘High Priest Coifi riding up Goodmanham Lane to smash the Idols‘ from Little Treasure Island by Arthur Mee (Hodder & Stoughton, 1920) show. The much-enlarged signature here also highlights the crude tones produced by letterpress printing as compared with modern colour lithography.

Magculture – London’s new magazine shop

February 2, 2016
Football magazine 8 by 8 - available from the Magculture shop

Clip Klopp: football magazine 8 by 8 – available from the Magculture shop

I dropped in on magazine design guru Jeremy Leslie last week at his new Magculture magazine shop on my way back form a meeting at London’s City University. It’s a great location, just south of the university’s journalism school and so close to some of the great historical sites associated with magazines, from St John’s Gate to the Grub Street area where many hack writers – Dr Johnson among them – lived before making their names and moving closer to Fleet Street.

Only about 500 yards separate the home of the world’s first magazine from Magculture with its displays of the world’s latest independent magazines.

The front of the Magculture shop

The front of the Magculture shop

Jeremy has his studio behind the shop and it’s also a great space for hosting events – the display wall at the rear is on wheels and moves back to create a bigger space! Crafty stuff. And the shelves are all Vitsoe – I planned a display wall using the system in a house I wanted to buy about 20 years ago, but the sale fell through. And have you seen the prices of second-hand Vitsoe on eBay? Really holds its value.

The Magculture shop stocks 250 titles, probably about a fifth from overseas. I came away with a Magculture bag stuffed with US football title Eight by Eight, Elsie, Cover Junkie‘s This is not an addiction…‘, a copy of Jeremy’s Independence and Magculture’s My Favourite Magazine  and catalogue. Online shops are just so boring in comparison.

Magculture is at 270 St John St, EC1V 4PE.

‘Do us a solid.’ GQ’s scatalogical battle to kill ad-blockers

January 7, 2016
GQ's message to freeloading readers - watch the ads or pay up

GQ’s message to freeloading readers – watch the ads or pay up (there must be a pun in there somewhere – GQ = Gentleman’s Quarterly; 25c = a quarter)

Turn off your ad blocker or pay 25c to read this article. That’s the message being put out on articles by US magazines such as GQ and Forbes, says Fortune magazine.  There’s a battle going on here with ad-dependent websites trying to kill ad-blocking before they becomes standard – because publishers know that if it does become the default for phones and tablets, most people will never turn the blocker off.

Where does the money go, I wonder? The text ‘Support GQ‘s award-winning journalism’ hints that some of it may go to the writers at the men’s magazine; but I doubt it. Unless they are a big name writer, they’ll have had to sign a 10-page contract that takes all rights to exploit the article.

A big issue for many users, however, is the intrusive nature of the GQ advertising, along with many apps, particularly free games. As Aminatou Sou commented:

25 cents seems fair. I would turn off my ad blocker @gq except that you’re using 14 different trackers to follow me

Just as irritating may be GQ‘s language – ‘do us a solid’. Is that what passes for lavatorial humour at GQ and Vogue publisher Condé Nast?

>>History of digital magazines

Pulp fiction and off-the-shelf thriller plots

December 31, 2015
Miles Jupp on pulp writer William Wallace Cook and Plotto, his 'Master Book of All Plots'

Miles Jupp expounds on US pulp writer William Wallace Cook and Plotto, his ‘Master Book of All Plots’

Miles Jupp set out on BBC Radio 4 this morning to answer the question: How many stories are there in the world? In Miles Jupp and the Plot Device he investigates the ideas of William Wallace Cook, an American writer of pot-boilers and stories for pulp fiction magazines in the 1920s. According to Cook there were 1,462 plots and he laid them all out in Plotto, his ‘Master Book of All Plots’, in 1928.

Any writer stuck for inspiration could leaf through Plotto to discover plots like ‘a ventriloquist, captured by savages and threatened with death, makes an animal talk and is given his freedom’ or ‘a reporter, writing up an imaginary interview as fact, quotes a man as being in town on a certain day. The man, subsequently accused of a crime, establishes an alibi through an interview innocently faked by the reporter.’

Cook hailed his own book as ‘an invention which reduces literature to an exact science’ and it worked for him, turning out up to 50 novels a year. Perry Mason creator Earl Stanley Gardner is mentioned as having ‘borrowed liberally’ from Plotto and Alfred Hitchcock had a copy. Jub reckons that pulp plots cover just about every episode of both Downton Abbey and Mad Men.

Jupp enlists the help of crime writers Val McDermid and John Harvey in his investigation. Harvey has written more than 100 thrillers. McDermid – writer of 40 books – reckons thrillers are character-driven, rather than by plot, which is why Plotto falls down for her. However, she does reckon it has a role in prompting plot ideas.

Such writers filled the pages of the popular weekly and monthly magazines in Britain and the US for most of the 20th century; the serials were then turned into books (and the other way round when the writers became popular). Cook’s output pales into insignificance when compared with the most prolific British writers – Ursula Bloom (560 romance novels in her 91 years), Barbara Cartland (359 romances in 98 years) and King Kong inventor Edgar Wallace, regarded as the most widely read author in the world in the 1920s with 170 novels (but then he died while working on the film King Kong at the age of just 57).  Presumably, they just got on with writing and never read any books!

You can still hear Miles Jupp and the Plot Device on the BBC website. Or, better still, pop into the Edgar Wallace pub off Fleet Street for a New Year pint and listen to it on your laptop.

Magazines go mad at Christmas

December 29, 2015
Christmas covers dug out of James Hyman's archive

Just four of the Christmas covers dug out of James Hyman’s archive

The people over at Radio Times were really helpful digging out scans of the magazine’s covers when I was writing my magazine design book. I discovered in my researches that the best-selling magazine yet was the Christmas 1988 cover of the Radio Times – it shifted 11 million copies!

There are no Radio Times covers in this list of Christmas magazine covers past, but James Hyman dug out some great fronts from his archive for the piece by Anna Doble, BBC Newsbeat‘s online editor. It just shows how magazines go mad at Christmas.

Merry Christmas – from ‘Mother Christmas’

December 25, 2015

 

 

 

Daily Mirror wishes its readers an old Noel joke

December 24, 2015
Daily Mirror front page 2015 December 24

Today’s Daily Mirror front page

Today’s Daily Mirror found a crafty way of wishing its readers a Happy Christmas with a tweak to its masthead.

But what an old joke!

Notice also the missing dot over the I in Mirror. What’s that then – Noeye? Noglyph?

 

 

 

 

 


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