Stephen Kelly remembers What The Papers Say

It was weekly, it went out on a Friday night. Regarded by many as the best job in British television. It was terrific. I loved What the Papers Say, I had a great time. It wasn’t over demanding to be honest. Lots of interesting people, journalists. But the routine basically was, you came into work on Monday morning and you had to read Saturday’s newspapers, Sunday’s newspapers and Monday’s newspapers. That took up most of the day. And what you did was, you were looking for stories and themes that your journalists might like to develop. And maybe later on Monday, or probably more likely on the Tuesday, you would have conversation with the journalist who was presenting the programme. So on the Tuesday, I would usually go down to London, and I would read Tuesday’s papers on the train. I would get to London, and I would either go and see that week’s presenter and discuss what he might be wanting to do. Or sometimes we would entertain, take out for lunch, a potential new person. I remember that we took out Yvonne Roberts once. And we took out the guy from the Guardian, Sebastian Faulks, he later became a highly successful novelist. We took him out once, he was very entertaining. Generally, you would be looking to talk with that week’s presenter on the Wednesday, your presenter would be working on the story, and might call upon you to do some research. Most of them didn’t, most of them stuck very much to that week’s stories. But there was one in particular, who was the most hard-working and the most demanding journalist of them all, and that was Paul Foot. Paul Foot was terrific. He would suddenly say to you, “Steve, I remember there was a piece in the Hampstead and High paper about 10 years ago about something, do you think you could find it for us?” So I would have to go off to the Ham and High office and attempt to find this article. And he would devise this great script, which made references to what had been said in the past etc., and would be fairly complicated. But golly, it was really great journalism. It was really great investigative journalism that he was doing. He was demanding. And I did actually miss seeing the European Cup final one evening because he was so demanding, when he kept me in the office till about nine o’clock at night! So that would be Wednesday, the script would be coming together. On the Thursday, the journalist would come into the office with his completed script, and we would go through the script. We would then have to find the excerpts in all of those various newspapers. It was very complicated in those days, because they then had to go onto a caption. It doesn’t happen like that now. So I would have to go through all the newspapers and make sure we had it. Because the newspapers changed, as well, you’d suddenly get a London edition which might have had something in, but in the Manchester office, the Manchester edition might not have had it. So that all had to be prepared on Thursday, we would go up, and I would be in very early on Friday morning. I would give it to the graphics people to put the captions up, and talk to the director. And then they’d go to rehearsals on the Friday morning, they would go into studio on the Friday afternoon, and late Friday afternoon’s programme would be recorded and went out on the Friday night. I

t was a great show to work on. I mean, wonderful, wonderful. presenters, wonderful, wonderful journalists working on it, it was a joy to work on. And when I did it, I was working with Mike Ryan. And Mike Ryan was also a joy to work with. I should also mention the What the Papers Say Awards. Every year, we would have the What the Papers Say Awards, and we’d give awards to the best journalists, the most outstanding journalists of that year, maybe they’d got a scoop. We had various categories: story of the year, columnist of the year, newspaper of the year. And I would be largely responsible for those awards, and I would draw up a list from my own personal point of view, like I would say, “Newspaper of the year: Daily Mirror, Guardian for such and such story, and the Times.” And there would be a big committee meeting, and the great and good of Granada – Sir Denis Forman, Sidney Bernstein might have come forward as well, David Plowright would be there, Mike Scott, Steve Morrison, Mike Ryan, David Boulton was always there as well. Gus MacDonald, and all the great good of Granada, the great journalists of Granada would gather, and they will go through the three that I had presented them and decide who would finally get that award. David Boulton and I used to have a little competition. He would say, “You decide who you think should get it, and I’ll decide who I think should get it. And we’ll see who gets the most right.” I introduced cartoonist of the year as well. There had never been a cartoonist of the year, and I got that going. Once we’d decided this, this would be followed some weeks later by a gathering at the Savoy Hotel in London for the What the Papers Say Awards. This would be televised. And we always had a lunch of Morecambe Bay shrimps followed by Lancashire hotpot, and the awards would be presented. Great occasion.

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