Being a newspaper editor is just like being a referee: do a good job and no one notices but send a man off accidentally or announce prematurely the death of capitalism or Michael Heseltine and you can expect a call from Sepp Blatter or Rupert Murdoch. Or both. So watch it.
Without a good editor journalists would run wild, penning pieces about their favourite things (breasts, pubs, breasts) instead of focussing on what’s important (Iraq, Labour, Lohan). Of course editors pride themselves on breaking stories and writing eye-catching headlines. We all remember where we were when we read, “MARLEY: I SHOT THE SHERRIFF”, “SPARROW: I SHOT COCK ROBIN” and of course, “FREDDIE STAR ATE MY SUPPER”.
My first ever editor reminded me of the man who ran The Daily Planet in Superman. Famed for his battle cry (“forget the facts, just give me words!”), he, was, always, adding, unnecessary, punctuation, or, even, occasionally, biz-zarre hyp-hens or CAPITals to my work. After my first scoop, (“POPE: I DO SMOKE DOPE”) he called me into his office. “Why did you break this story?” he bellowed. “Stories should never be broken, but must be kept in one piece at all times!” My next offering, “MAN CHOKES TO DEATH ON RAILWAY PLATFORM”, left him just as angry. “Why was he eating a goddam railway line?” I tried to explain but he threw me out. The next morning I received a letter. It read, “BIG-NOSED JOURNALIST IN SHOCK REDUNDANCY”. “That’s funny,” I thought. “Why would they sack Jim on the sports desk?” Then it dawned on me. Of course I’d tell you his name but I bet it gets removed. That’s the thing with editors. They’re like surgeons: only happy when they’re taking something out. I just hope they leave the bit I put in earlier concerning the precise whereabouts of Lord Lucan.