Murdoch, a spike and a Pick

A few years ago, I stayed with a friend who was renting a house in the West Country. In my bedroom was a pile of Country Life magazines. I flicked through a copy and as I put it back, I read the label stuck on the back – it was marked for Rupert Murdoch. As was the rest of the pile – every one had been Murdoch’s personal copy at New International.

What was going on?

I quizzed my host. He said the house had been previously rented by Lady Pickering. The name rang a bell and it came to me over a pint in a Bath pub that evening – ‘Pick’ Picking.

Edward (‘Pick’ or ‘Ted’) Pickering was one of the ‘spike’ of Daily Express editors, he being the fourth and successor to Arthur Christiansen (‘Pick’ had been managing editor since 1951). He took over ‘The World’s Greatest Newspaper’ for Beaverbrook and increased sales to 4.5 million copies a day (1957-62). The paper’s glamour was confirmed when its iconic offices in Fleet Street were used for the 1961 film The Day the Earth Caught Fire, with Christiansen playing the editor.

Pickering then went into management, and held the chairmanships of IPC’s newspaper division, its magazines and then Mirror Group. He was later knighted.

In retirement, he became a long-time confidante of Rupert Murdoch – whom he had trained on the sub’s desk at the Express in the 1950s. (What are newspapers going to do for future editors now they’re getting rid of subs? They must reckon they’re not going to be around long enough to need any more.)

I chuckled over my beer to think of Pickering pinching Rupert’s magazines to give to his missus.

The Guardian’s Media Monkey mentions another side to Murdoch as his mum turns 100 (which reminded me of an early scene in Slumdog Millionaire – see it if you haven’t already). ‘A family friend told the Daily Mail: “Dame Elisabeth is the only person Rupert has ever been scared of – I remember her ticking him off for playing bridge badly and him apologising like a small boy.”‘

Pickering obitary

Hirings and many firings at the Black Lubyanka – the Express had five editors in 61 years but after that they came and went like modern-day football managers

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One Response to “Murdoch, a spike and a Pick”

  1. Kitchener, Ernest Noble and the Nignog Club | Magforum Says:

    […] paper, the place where Sunday Times and Times editor Harry Evans made his name, and before him Ted Pickering, a 1950s editor of the Daily Express, and WT Stead, who as editor of the Pall Mall Gazette was one of the great Victorian crusading […]

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