As I progress with the cataloguing of C.P. Scott’s editorial correspondence, I have begun to notice patterns and trends. Often, if there is a relationship of long standing with the contributor, letters are initially addressed to Scott, but, later, are exchanged with his successors, Edward T. Scott, William P. Crozier and Alfred P. Wadsworth.
William P. Crozier was editor of the Manchester Guardian from 1932 – 1944, succeeding Edward Scott, the son of C.P. Scott, who died suddenly and unexpectedly, only a few months after his father. Despite the unenviable task of following in such unique editorial footsteps, Crozier did not lack experience. He began work at the Manchester Guardian in 1903, and became C.P. Scott’s right hand man, with responsibilities ranging from news gathering and foreign news, to the introduction of sporting and arts news, and of crossword puzzles.
I have chosen for my second blog post, an internal memorandum written by Crozier to F.S. Attenborough, long standing chief sub editor at the Manchester Guardian, in 1937.
Internal memoranda, notes and correspondence between members of staff at the Manchester Guardian can be found throughout Scott’s editorial correspondence. They’re the early 20th century equivalent of the quick email between colleagues, and include discussion of the general administration of employing external correspondents, the subject and form of potential articles, and also discussion of the individuals with whom Scott is corresponding. These internal memos can be very illuminating, providing insight into the character of the correspondents and context for the correspondence it accompanies. They’re also, frankly, sometimes comically catty.
The complaint in Crozier’s memorandum does, in tone and style, verge upon the humorous. To send over 100 memos on the correct use of correlative conjunctions is perhaps a little excessive. It does, however, illustrate a sense of honest exasperation. It must have been equally frustrating for the editorial and sub editorial teams to receive an additional 50 memos on the misuse of the word ‘otherwise’.
However, the memo also provides us with the motive for Crozier’s insistence. The objective of championing the use of ‘the best and most effective English for newspaper purposes’ is to ensure that clarity of meaning is not obscured by grammatical ambiguity. In Crozier’s statement that news articles should be ‘simple, direct, lucid, concise and short’, there is an echo of C.P. Scott’s vision for the Manchester Guardian, outlined in his article for the paper’s centenary.
‘[A newspaper’s] primary office is the gathering of news. At the peril of its soul it must see that the supply is not tainted. Neither in what it gives, nor in what it does not give, nor in the mode of presentation must the unclouded face of truth suffer wrong. Comment is free, but facts are sacred.’
Crozier’s close involvement in the writing and editing of the paper may then, in part, be a testament to C.P. Scott’s belief in the importance of integrity in journalism. It’s also possible to see this legacy in the current Guardian style guide, which advocates ‘an interest in the language, in its proper use, and its development…’
Whilst acknowledging the on-going and unstoppable evolution of the use of language and grammar, and the interesting ways that the rules by which they are governed can be subverted to improve quality of expression, in this instance, I’d say Crozier may have had a point. If your job is to deliver the news, everyone needs to understand exactly what you’re talking about.