Kissing frogs is a job for a princess

A princess who wants to find her prince will have to kiss a lot of frogs during the search.

A young reporter seeking a page one byline will have to type up a lot of funeral and wedding reports on the way.

The late 60s was still a time when weekly newspapers were considered a “paper of record”. That meant publishing things like marriages and funerals with as much detail as possible.

By the time I worked on the Flintshire Leader, and then the Rhyl Journal, wedding photos and reports could build up and often not get into the newspaper until long after the honeymoon was over.

Newspapers provided forms for the happy couple to fill in the details including their names; parents’ names; addresses; names of bridesmaids, best man and ushers; description of the bride’s dress, and those of the bridesmaids; and even extra space if they wanted to add on other information: jobs or shared hobbies such as am dram.

Some poor junior reporter (in those days me) would have to type this into a readable format.

There was worse to tackle, however, the dreaded funeral reports.

The funeral report forms were left with funeral directors and after the basic details (name, age, address, occupation and date and place of death and burial) they would include the full list of mourners and the names of the people who gave floral tributes.

On an important funeral there could be 100 mourners and well over 100 floral tributes. Each and every one would have to be listed.

I was told by an older reporter that in his young days he had to go to the church where a funeral was held and note down the names on the cards for floral tributes and even have to copy down the names from cards the mourners had filled in and left in the pews.

At least those days are long gone.

I referred to newspapers being “papers of report” and this did not lend itself to striking page layouts or gripping storylines.

In fact it was not long before the Rhyl Journal was taken over by NWN that they stopped putting only advertisements on the front page.

In many local newspapers in the 1950s, even well into the 60s, a report from a monthly council meeting might fill the whole of an inside broadsheet page. There would be sub heads (really crossheads) to break up the slabs of type but a lot of it was verbatim.

Gradually this style of recording rather than reporting was replaced by genuine journalism. This meant the reporter would pick out the best stories from a meeting and use the relevant points of interest rather than using everything that was said.

A strong story from a council could make an inside page lead or even a front page piece. In fact, if there was contention at the meeting it could even make a splash.

If I went to a meeting with a senior reporter I would often be assigned some of the lesser stories which might make inside anchors (bottom of the page) or even hampers (top of the page above the page lead.

In that year in between my Cardiff courses I did not have much in the way of exciting stories to put in my scrapbook but I was certainly prolific with the sort of stories that made up the bulk of a newspaper.

A story about a shop selling seashells made a good feature with a picture but it was really bordering on an advertising puff piece. The only news angle was that it was the first time someone had started selling foreign seashells at a seaside town.

Other than that there were lots of minor court cases; WI reports; stories about Scout troops or Girl Guides going off to camp.

In a way it came as a relief to head off to Cardiff again in autumn 1970 for the second part of my block release course.

At least there I wasn’t still on the bottom rung of the ladder.

Next time: how I became a badminton fan and learned how to ski.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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