Bairnsfather’s ‘dirty dog’

August 28, 2015
Captain Bruce Bairnsfather’s dirty dog ending from Fragments from France (volume 4)

Captain Bruce Bairnsfather’s dirty dog ending from Fragments from France (volume 4)

Bruce Bairnsfather was a British soldier who made his name as the most popular cartoonist of the First World War with his Old Bill character in the Bystander magazine. Old Bill was a curmudgeonly veteran coping with life in the mud of the Western Front alongside his pals, Bert and Alf. Bairnsfather sent the first sketch in, the magazine printed it, and, Hey Presto!, they had a massive hit on their hands.

The cartoons were collated and republished as a series of Fragments from France books. There were eight volumes, which sold millions of copies across the world and sparked a merchandise frenzy, as well as plays and films. Bairnfather also worked in the US and Old Bill, and his son, were revived in the Second World War as a mascot for the US troops.

I liked this ‘dirty dog’ ending from Fragments from France, volume 4 in August 1917. The bulldog was regularly used to represent Britain and the dachshund Germany (Kaiser Wilhelm had one as a pet). The dachshund was bred to hunt in burrows – the word means ‘badger hound’ – but this one has clearly seen better days.

Last year, military historians Tonie and Valmai Holt published The Biography of Captain Bruce Bairnsfather: In Search of the Better ‘Ole, and began a campaign to seek official recognition for Bairnsfather‘s morale-boosting contribution to the war effort. October 2015 marks the centenary of the first published Old Bill cartoon.

‘The Super Moshis need YOU’ – the powerful language of propaganda

August 25, 2015

The advertising watchdog has criticised Mind Candy for tempting children

Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority berated Mind Candy on Tuesday. The offence committed by the online company was using adverts inside Moshi Monsters to encourage the game’s young players to pester their parents for paid add-ons and subscriptions.

The problem has come up before with adverts even in games back in the 1980s, but it wasn’t this that grabbed my attention: it was the wording in the adverts.

Alfred Leete's 'Your Country Needs You' London Opinion cover inspired a Great War advertising campaign

Alfred Leete’s ‘Your Country Needs You’ London Opinion cover

Among the copy used were the phrases ‘The Super Moshis need YOU! Rise to the challenge and join the Super Moshis in their crusade’ alongside prominent calls to action such as ‘JOIN NOW’. This is the language of advertising from the Edwardian era and the propaganda posters of the First World War. The Moshi pages make frequent use of the words ‘you’ and ‘your’ to attract children’s attention and make them feel they are being spoken to directly. A classic market technique in 1914 and still effective now.

Black-and-white artist Alfred Leete used exactly that construction when he did his 1914 London Opinion magazine cover of Lord Kitchener that was taken up so powerfully as a government recruiting poster.

Millions of men volunteered to fight and die in the mud of France, enticed to join up by the ‘Your Country Needs You’ magazine covers and posters. In today’s consumer world, it’s children’s pocket money that the likes of Mind Candy are after with ‘Super Moshis need YOU!’.

New Statesman’s curious case of John Major’s ‘mistress’

August 23, 2015
New Statesman's 'motherhood trap' cover illustration earned the ire of several women politicians

New Statesman’s ‘motherhood trap’ cover illustration earned the ire of several women politicians

New Statesman is a leftwing magazine that, as befits a political weekly, likes to stir things up occasionally. This recent cover for ‘The motherhood trap’ by Helen Lewis generated a fuss when it was criticised by SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon as being ‘crass’ and reinforcing prejudice. The Tory leader in Scotland, Ruth Davidson, tweeted: ‘oh do sod off’.

But New Statesman really got itself into deep water in the 1990s with an article, ‘The curious case of John Major’s “mistress”‘.  It sparked a libel  case that became curiouser and curiouser, damaged the PM and had a stunning denouement – nine years later. At the time, the article nearly sank the magazine as it celebrated its 80th anniversary year with a revamp to try and boost its 22,000 circulation.

New Statesman 1993 jan 29 John Major Clare Latimer

The curious case of John Major’s ‘mistress’: New Statesman of 29 January 1993 with a photomontage by Richard Camps showing Clare Latimer in the background

It was January 1993. Major was the son of a trapeze artist and former City banker who had never been to university. He had risen through the Tory ranks to take over as prime minister and leader of the Conservatives after the ousting of Margaret Thatcher in November 1990. He then won a tight election in 1992. Major himself was regarded as the grey man of British politics. However, his government was plagued by sexual and financial scandals and led to the label of ‘Tory sleaze’. Prominent among these scandals was actress Antonia de Sancha selling a kiss-and-tell story to the News of the World of a ‘toe-sucking’ affair with David Mellor. Major vowed to back his culture minister ‘through thick and thin’, but Mellor had eventually resigned as a minister in the previous September. Such scandals derailed Major’s later ‘back to basics’ campaign that aimed to encourage support for traditional morality and the family.

The New Statesman article set out to investigate who was driving persistent  rumours that Major was having an affair. It had been obliquely referred to in newspaper diary columns and the satirical puppet-based TV series Spitting Image. The standfirst and headline summed the article up:

It is the ‘story’ that dare not speak its name. Steve Platt and Nyta Mann investigate the rumour, gossip and nudge-and-a-wink innuendo behind … the curious case of John Major’s mistress

It talked about a ‘deliberate attempt to undermine the new prime minister’, ‘dissatisfied Thatcherite Tories’ and ‘investigative muckraking’ by the newspapers. The ‘mistress’ often surrepticiously cited was named as Clare Latimer, who  had done the catering for events at 11 Downing Street when Major was chancellor from 1989 and carried on working for him when he was PM.

Major and Latimer separately sued for libel, against both the New Statesman and the satirical magazine Scallywag, which also carried the story.

The New Statesman insisted the article never intended to assert that an affair had taken place. It was ‘anatomy of a rumour’. But Major and his lawyer, David Hooper, who was reputed to charge £250 an hour, pressed the writ. The magazine’s wholesalers, distributors and printers quickly apologised and paid damages without a fight. However, they, in turn, were able to make New Statesman pay these costs. In an article that argued Major had damaged his reputation in bringing the case, the Sunday Times estimated the damages at £26,500 to Major and 30,000 to Latimer with costs of £80,000 (11 July). These were seen as ‘soft’ targets.

Paperboy threatened by libel laws: New Statesman of March 12

Paperboy threatened by libel laws: New Statesman of March 12

New Statesman editor Steve Platt fought the case, quickly raising £100,000 from an appeal to readers for donations towards its costs, as Private Eye did in cases such as its fight against Robert Maxwell. It campaigned for reform of the libel laws to protect printers and distributors from such claims with a cover story entitled ‘Would you sue your paperboy?’

Its legal bills topped £200,000 and the magazine came close to collapse. However, Major settled in July for just £1,001 in damages, in what the Sunday Times called ‘a derisory climbdown’.

The Economist agreed, describing Westminster talk of ‘John the Wimp’ (10 July):

A popular reading of Mr Major among his Tory critics is that he is a man who throws in his hand when the stakes get raised against him. This week’s settlement seems to bear that out.

New Statesman hits back: the cover the week after Major settled the case (16 July)

New Statesman hits back: the cover the week after Major settled the case (16 July)

But the magazine survived. Major left the leadership after losing the the 1997 election to Tony Blair (an article by the then shadow home secretary, ‘Why crime is a socialist issue’, was one of the cover lines alongside ‘The curious case’), but stayed on as an MP until 2001. Then, in 2002, former Tory minister Edwina Currie ‘shopped’ Major, revealing she had an extra-marital affair with Major in her memoir Diaries (1987–92). The book told of a four-year affair when they were party whips from 1984, a time when they were both married; Major to Norma, and Currie to her first husband, Ray Currie.

The news led the magazine to threaten legal action to get its costs back, saying Major’s libel action appeared to be based on a false premise.

In 1994, Currie had written a novel, A Parliamentary Affair. An Observer Magazine profile summed up the plot:

[A] cabinet member has an affair with a rent boy and a junior minister makes love to a breast-jiggling journalist on Westminster Bridge. Meanwhile, Elaine, a backbencher not to be confused with her creator, has rear-entry sex in a Commons office.

So it’s no wonder that the Guardian said of Currie’s Dairies revelation:

The nation was shocked by Edwina Currie’s revelation that she had an affair with John Major, not so much because of any moral concern over fidelity, but because the idea of them at it took us to places we never, ever, wanted to go.

Let’s give the final word to Richard Camps who did the pre-computer photomontage for ‘The curious case’ cover:

I remember watching footage on the news of rabid Tories angrily waving this illustration in parliament. A proud moment. John Major has since proved himself to be a man of unquestionable integrity and fidelity who would never get involved in anything as sordid as an extramarital affair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

magazine

Biggles takes off in a magazine

August 19, 2015
Letter from AP Watt - the world's oldest literary agent - after WE Johns Biggles stories were publisghed in Pearson's Magazine

Letter from AP Watt & Son – the world’s oldest literary agent – after WE Johns Biggles stories were published in Pearson’s Magazine

This letter at Roger Harris’s WE Johns website is a lovely example of the role magazines play in introducing writers to the world. Peter Watt of Watt & Son – the world’s oldest literary agency and now owned by United Agents – wrote to the Biggles creator after the first part of one of his stories, ‘Dr Vane Answers the Call’, was published in Pearson’s Magazine of October 1939. As the letter points out, Johns joined a roster that included HG Wells, PG Wodehouse and Gilbert Frankau.

Of course, the Biggles stories were well established, but then they were also published in a magazine. ‘The White Fokker’, the first Biggles tale, was in the launch issue of Popular Flying, dated April 1932, which William Earl Johns edited. Several of the covers were painted by a friend of his, Howard Leigh. The magazine’s publishing company, John Hamilton Ltd, also published the first Biggles book collection, The Camels are Coming, that year.

Popular Flying in 1934 when it was edited by Biggles creator WE Johns

Popular Flying in 1934 when it was edited by Biggles creator WE Johns

Johns was editor of Popular Flying and its later sister title, the weekly Flying, until May 1939. His editorials took an aggressive line about the lack of funding for the air force. In his last ‘Editor’s Cockpit’ for Popular Flying, Johns berates the government for failing to invest in aircraft. He warns that Hitler will be able to dominate Europe because the Luftwaffe has far more planes than Britain – and the Royal Navy is to blame for sucking in all the resources! The magazine’s publisher did not like this and Johns was sacked.

However, he just moved across to take over as editor of Pearson’s, a fiction-based monthly that was a rival to the Strand, taking his stories with him. Unfortunately, his stint only lasted from the May to November issues, when Pearson’s closed, a victim of paper rationing at the start of World War Two. Its paper no doubt went to the populariser of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, the Strand, which was published by the same company. Pearson’s was an ignominious end for a title that had itself first published HG Wells’ War of the Worlds.

The Vane story would not be published in book form until 1950.

The Watt letter is dated 28 September 1939 and is part of a collection of letters to Bill Johns from Peter Watt that can be seen on Roger’s image-filled pages. As Roger points out:

The WE Johns biography suggests that Bill Johns was persuaded to approach them. It seems from this letter, they actually approached him!

One for the magazine collector

August 15, 2015

I spoke to James Hyman last year who runs the Hyman Archive and I send people there when they start thinking they have a problem storing their magazine collection. This is just a great picture (and links to a video from his website):

James Hyman in his archive - happy as a...?

James Hyman in his archive – happy as a…?

Hyman has 50,000 magazines. My collection is trivial compared with this, but then I do say I spend my time trying not to collect magazines. I look for evidence of change and watersheds in the industry. However, even if I were to have just the first, last and one other copy of every one of the 7,000 titles published in Britain today, that would be 21,000 magazines!  And in that context, even Hyman’s archive is just a toe in the water.

Take the monthly fashion glossy Vogue, just the British edition, first published in 1916.

Vogue from 1918 - beware, it's bigger than it looks

Vogue from 1918 – beware, it’s bigger than it looks

That’s 100 years of a monthly. So, you think, 100 x 12 magazines = 1200. At 25 in a box, that’s 48 boxes. Manageable. But then you discover that Vogue came out pretty much twice a month into the 1970s (notice the dateline on the one above – late May 1918). So it turns out you need 80 boxes, each with a footprint larger than A4. Have you ever tried moving a box of 25 Vogues? Believe me, you won’t want to do it very often.

And that’s before you discover the spin-offs, such as Vogue Knitting and Vogue Beauty (which were merged into the main magazine because of paper rationing during the wars). Surely you will be tempted by a few French, Italian, US and Japanese issues? (Don’t be – there are 125 different editions; I think one of the Indian issues was the biggest, the thickness of a telephone directory.) But you’d have to let in the classy 1960s Men in Vogue (luckily it was only two or four times a year for five years). Then what about Men’s Vogue (again, didn’t last long)? The dress patterns? Media packs? Band-on supplements? Cover gifts? – the tacky flip-flops, beach bags and paperbacks really mess up the 25 in a box plan.

Before you know it, the collector in you has amassed 5,000 magazines, is still only halfway to satisfying that acquisitive urge – and that is just one title.

So, before you get into too much deep paper, do a bit of planning. Limit your storage space, and, once it’s near full, adopt a one-in, one-out strategy. Don’t use wine boxes because a full wine box will be too heavy to lift 10 years from now; also, the weight will flatten the spines of perfect-bound magazines such as Vogue. Keep them downstairs. But do use sturdy boxes so they don’t fall apart, offer some protection when dropped (I once had a wall of shelves full of magazines collapse on me at college) and can be sealed to keep out spiders, insects and mice.

If you collect more than one magazine, how are you going to arrange them? By date? By title? By sector? Depends on why you want them and plan to use them. Be careful of individual storage bag sizes if you plan to store them that way – but watch the pages don’t catch on the bag’s sticky sealing strips as they come in and out. Also, the bags slide off each other very easily, so the magazines can’t be just piled up. Do store them well though, because the condition is so important when you come to sell them.

Finally, you’ll want to catalogue them. I have 3 essential lists, all 2.5Mb-2.9Mb wordprocessor files with basic facts such as title, date, price, publisher and editor, along with notes about writers, designers, illustrators, unusual features, etc. And if you want to trade, don’t forget sources and prices. My files aren’t online (total lack of planning), but the saintly Phil Stephensen-Payne and his Philsp website are an absolute boon for research into the contents of so many magazines.

You’ll find some more (hopefully useful) comments on my Magazine Collecting page.

In the meantime, I find myself asking myself: why haven’t I taken my own advice? Happy collecting.

What can we do with the nipples this month?

August 15, 2015
Cute cover-up: Naomi Campbell on the cover of GQ in April 2000

Cute cover-up: Naomi Campbell on the cover of GQ in April 2000

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, GQ was down there fighting for sales against the likes of FHM and Loaded by putting naked women on its covers as often as possible. Well, nearly naked. The delicate rules of the newsagent dictate that nipples cannot be shown.

This cute magazine cover-up for Naomi Campbell on the cover of GQ – sister title to Vogue at Conde Nast – in April 2000 has to go down as one of the best examples.

You can imagine the cover meetings at the time: ‘Well, how can we show as much naked flesh this month without revealing a nipple?’ They were taped up, covered in subtly-draped clothes or hidden under type. Sometimes, they were just blatantly airbrushed out, as in the example of Abi Titmouse below from FHM (then published by Emap) .

FHM June 2004. But what's happened to the nipples on Abi Titmuss?

FHM June 2004. But what’s happened to the nipples on Abi Titmuss?

 

 

Pearson to sell Financial Times to Japan’s Nikkei for £884m

July 23, 2015
How will people be reading the FT over breakfast  under Japanese ownership?

People will now be reading an FT over breakfast that is under Japanese ownership

Japan’s Nikkei media group has announced it is buying the Financial Times from Pearson for £884m. One of Japanese company’s English-language magazines, Nikkei Asian Review, quoted Tsuneo Kita, chairman and chief of Nikkei:

I am extremely proud of teaming up with the Financial Times, one of the most prestigious news organizations in the world. Our motto of providing high-quality reporting on economic and other news, while maintaining fairness and impartiality, is very close to that of the FT. We share the same journalistic values. Together, we will strive to contribute to the development of the global economy.

The FT was founded in 1888, a dozen years after Nikkei. Both gave their names to their country’s main stock market indices, the Nikkei 225 and the FTSE 250. However, while Nikkei has also concentrated on publishing to build a paper that sells 3 million copies a day, the FT was bought up by Pearson, a company that was founded on road-building and developed into a conglomerate based around owing leading brands. It has bought and sold an astonishing range of companies. At one time, Pearson controlled the French vineyard Chateau Latour (which it sold to brewer and distiller Allied Lyons), merchant bank Lazard, Waterford glass, Wedgwood China, Alton Towers, Madame Tussaud wax works, Warwick Castle, the production company behind Australian TV soap Neighbours, Thames TV, multimedia developer Mindscape, Future Publishing, an oil services group, Penguin and Dorling Kindersley. In recent years, Pearson has placed famous educational publishing names such as Longman, Prentice-Hall, Addison-Wesley and Pitman under the Pearson Education branding. Marjorie Scardino, who made her name running the half-FT-owned Economist, focused the group, but famously said Pearson would sell the FT ‘over my dead body’. She was in the job for 16 years, saw Pearson through the dotcom boom and bust, and left having doubled the share price – a record that compares well with peer companies. John Fallon, her successor from January 2013, showed little enthusiasm for the paper, however, and is seen as having starved the FT of investment while messing up the rest of the now education-based Pearson. Within a year of Fallon taking over, the share price dropped sharply and 30 months later has barely recovered to what it was at the start of his tenure in 2013. In that time, peers such as the Daily Mail group has put 60% on its share price; RelX (Reed Elsevier) 70%; and Wolters Kluwer 80%. The deal with Nikkei does not include the half stake in the Economist, but does cover the FT‘s magazine arm, which includes Investor’s Chronicle. In all the takeover chatter, there has been much talk of the FT‘s independence. Strangely, the FT is the only paper that vaunts its owner’s name on its front page, a valuable form of free advertising that Pearson is now sure to lose. Also, it will have to start paying the FT for the use of its brand on the scores of management books it publishes under the paper’s imprint. The loss of such a big British-based asset as the FT again raises the question – often asked of the Texan Scardino early in her tenure – of whether Pearson might up sticks for the US, where most of its sales now lie. It will also be interesting to see whether the paper’s Lex column starts to write about Pearson – a ban that has been described as ‘self-imposed’ but dates back to the ‘aluminium war’ of 1959 involving a takeover battle for British Aluminium. Lex sided against the view of Lazard, the blue-blooded merchant bank in which Pearson, which had only recently bought the FT, had a big stake. It caused a big stink at the time. The Lex writers seem to have taken the view that discretion is the better part of valour when it comes to your owners. A view has been expressed that the lack of coverage in what was once the column that laid down the law on the City has held back Pearson’s share price. Will Lex cover Nikkei I wonder?

Greenslade’s mystery of Woman’s Own solved

July 19, 2015
A cover of woman's Own magazine from 17 December 1932, its first year of publication

A cover of woman’s Own magazine from 17 December 1932, its first year of publication

A friend pointed me in the direction of a Roy Greenslade Guardian blog from 2012 that sets up a mystery as to when Women’s Own was founded by George Newnes – 1932, as both the magazine and Wikipedia state, or 1931, which I state on Magforum. I confess I must be wrong.

The earlier version of Woman's Own, from 13 December 1913, published by WB Horner

The earlier version of Woman’s Own, from 13 December 1913, published by WB Horner

I can confirm the existence of the earlier magazine with the same title, however. The British Library has Woman’s Own published by WB Horner’s from 1913, with the modest strapline ‘The best woman’s paper’. I’ve seen copies dated December 1913 and as late as December 1916. The BL has copies into 1917, when it seems it was ‘incorporated with Horner’ s Penny Stories‘. Its offices were at The Fleetway House, Farringdon, in London, the same address later used by Amalgamated Press, the magazine arm of the Harmsworth brothers publishing empire, which took over Horner’s.

The Bear Alley blog – which takes its name from the passage at the side of Fleetway House – has a history of Horner’s.

Woman’s Own is published to this day by Time Inc UK, alongside Woman. For much of their lives, however, the duo were deadly rivals. Woman’s Own was owned by George Newnes and Odhams launched Woman against it on 5 June 1937. They came together in the 1960s with the formation of IPC. These home-based women’s weeklies were massive sellers in their day, peaking in about 1960 with a combined weekly sale of nigh on 6 million copies a week.

 

Independent magazines – Shoreditch talk

July 9, 2015

Stack/Printout is holding an evening panel with three authors talking about independent magazines:

The venue is the Book Club in London’s Shoreditch: Tuesday 28th July, 6.30pm start.

Also, Stack founder Steven Watson is advertising for a full-time editor who knows independent mags.

Time turns NME into a freesheet

July 7, 2015

The image used to head the NME freeesheet  announcement The image used to head the NME freeesheet announcement

The message from Time Inc UK, the US-based  owner of what was IPC, came out as gobbledegook:

Iconic brand NME today announces the latest stage in its evolution as an audience-first global media business. As well as a new nme.com and digital products, in September NME will become a free weekly magazine. With music firmly at the heart of the brand, NME’s authority will be the gateway into a wider conversation around film, fashion, television, politics, gaming and technology.

According to Marcus Rich, chief executive:

This famous 63 year-old brand was an early leader in digital and has been growing its global audience successfully for the best part of 20 years. It has been able to do so because music is such an important passion and now is the right time to invest in bringing NME to an even bigger community for our commercial partners

NME was a digital pioneer for IPC, as both a driver of the Unzip CD-Rom and one of the company’s first websites, alongside New Scientist and Uploaded.com (who remembers that?). It is the last survivor of the ‘inkies’ – the tabloid weekly music papers that once numbered Melody Maker (which dated back to the 1920s and put a toilet roll on its last cover), Melody Maker, Disc, Record Mirror and Sounds – and sold in their hundreds of thousands.

Has such a freesheet strategy ever gone well for the magazine that started it all?

 


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