Dr. Fred Hunter to British Journalism Review 1996 concerning Geoffrey
Cox's view of Tom Clarke
Cox infers that Tom Clarke was incapable of sustaining high intellectual
standards [Vol.7 No. 3] it might serve to remind readers that Clarke
left school at 15, did not attend university (though he did spend
some time at Ruskin College, Oxford) and by the age of 16 he was contributing
to the Northern Weekly and, at 17, a reporter on the Lewisham
Journal, while at 19, he was a reporter for the South China
Morning Post in Hong Kong. He was special correspondent in the
Far East for both the Daily Mail and the Chicago Tribune,
at 20, and in 1907, aged 23, he was a special writer on the Daily
Dispatch and an article he wrote on a flying meeting at Blackpool
won him his next job as news editor of the Daily Sketch. He
joined the foreign staff of the Daily Mail in 1911 and was
night news editor from 1914-16, becoming news editor in 1919. It was
his idea to organise Dame Nellie Melba’s first wireless concert in
1920 and, after Northcliffe’s death, he served his old friend Keith
Murdoch as assistant editor of the Melbourne Herald, from 1923-26.
It was then that
he returned to England to be the managing editor of the Daily News
and oversaw the merger with the rival Daily Chronicle, in 1930,
which resulted in the News Chronicle. After seven years working
for the Cadbury family, in 1935, he became the first Director of Practical
Journalism at King’s College, and revitalised the London University
Diploma for Journalism course.
memorandum, written on 3 September 1935, indicated how he saw “Journalism
at the University” developing:
of the practical side is not to educate the aspirant to a newspaper
career, but to show him, as an editor in a paper would – if he had
the time – how to apply the knowledge he has won elsewhere to the
practical purposes of a newspaper. I hope to use the “case-method”,
drawing on actual practical experience.
He was determined
The Diploma must
provide students with an intellectual equipment especially designed
for their needs, and different in degree, kind and quality from that
considered suitable for a B.A. degree. Clarke felt that the course
on the academic side should stimulate intellectual curiosity, provide
such knowledge of the modern world as would equip students to understand,
and report and comment intelligently, on current events of all kinds.
It should also indicate the methods of approach taught in certain
branches of modern knowledge.
It was this approach
that led to the adoption, in November, 1938, of a new syllabus for
journalism to include (a) Practical Journalism, (b) English Composition,
(c) the Modern World, comprising: History of the Modern World; Social
& Economic Structure of Today; Discoveries, Ideas & Thinkers that
have influenced modern thought (not examined); Literature & Drama
(mainly English) 1850 to the present, but particularly since 1900.
An optional subject had to be taken from: Outline of English Literature
(with set books); a Modern Language; Psychology; Philosophy; Military
Studies; History of Art.
One of his students
on the last year of the course, in 1939, was the late Geoffrey Pinnington,
who ended his career as editor of the Sunday People. It is
said that when he was overlooked for the editor’s job on the Daily
Mirror, Rupert Murdoch, and his team on the Sun, whooped
this to say about the two-year journalism course which he attended
at King’s College:
It was very much
nearer the thinking behind the Liberal Arts courses of the 1970s,
and not the deep specialisation in a narrow beam [of a degree]. I
found that sort of discipline, even at a relatively superficial level,
was invaluable to me later; not to become a critic but to know what
critical thinking was about, and to know a little bit about logic…
it helped with my thinking, and thinking is what journalism is about
in the long run.
Grub Street & Academia, the Relationship between Journalism and
Education, examines just how Clarke was able to make this happen
and how he taught it.
Note: Tom Clarke
left the News Chronicle in 1933. Cox did not join the paper