Ref NoOHP/67
TitlePeter Preston
DateJuly 2002-July 2003
Extent7 minidiscs, 6 cds, 1 file, 19 AIFF files (4911 MB)
Creator NamePreston; Peter John (1938-2018); journalist and editor of the Guardian
DescriptionInterview with Peter Preston, editor for the Guardian. Conducted by Ian Wright on 5 separate occaions from July 2002 to July 2003 (11 July 2002; 22 October 2002; 7 July 2003; 15 July 2003; 21 July 2003). Also includes a data sheet containing biographical details about the subject and information about thew recording and a list of roles Peter has occupied since joining the Guardian in 1963.

Main subjects covered by the interview: Preston's editorship; trade unions; changes during Preston's tenure including technological changes; the Times crisis; the 1988 redesign; the Sarah Tisdall affair; the purchase of The Observer.

Summary contents of interview (with rough timings):

Disc 1 - recorded 11 July 2002
Tracks 1-3

Track 4
01.00 Start of the Interview
01.00 First day of editorship after Alastair Hetherington had left
05.40 What it is like to take charge of the whole paper
07.45 Management of staff as editor
08.50 Populist choice as editor - pressure to deliver?

10.30 'terrible strain' of financial problems
11.30 Manchester Evening News propping up the Guardian financially
12.20 Dealing with the board and the Scott Trust
17.00 Views on Laurence Scott
18.30 Upstairs team at the Guardian 1975/76

21.00 Movement from Thompson building, 192 Gray's Inn Road, London to 119 Farringdon Road, London
24.00 Not a complete move - printing still done at Thompson
25.30 Peter Hillmore anecdote
29.00 NUJ negotiations about Manchester redundancy

30.20 Game of Union negotiations
31.45 Project of refitting Farringdon Road
36.00 Editors now: more pages, more competition
38.00 Union problems could stop a paper i.e. the Sunday Times
39.50 'Getting any kind of paper out was a triumph, instead of getting the paper you wanted out'

40.30 Relationship between Manchester and London
41.30 1976 - number of editorial staff
43.30 Paddy Barclay - good stories come out of redundancies
43.40 Move of City department to Farringdon
45.20 Hamish McRae positive about the move to Farringdon
46.30 Impact of personnel, geographical and technological changes and financial problems
49.30 Circulation changes during the seventies, price rises (25% increase)
49.40 Advertising problems

50.50 Circulation down to 258k (1977) from 320k
52.00 Needing to keep the staff focused on producing the paper, not the problems
56.00 Process of changes at the start of Editorship
56.30 Growth of features and sections. Classified/job advertising
57.45 Other sorts of readers that the paper had: media, society (public appointments), education

60.30 Using new space in the broadsheet freed up by sections
62.30 Agenda for newspapers - view of the Guardian
65.20 Political coverage
68.10 Newspaper reaction to tv

70.00 Changes in broadsheet news - following the Guardian's example

Disc 2:
Track 1

Track 2
00.00 Description of a typical working day
01.45 Gentlemen editors who would go to their clubs at 6pm (Times)
02.20 Workload changing with new technology and expertise changes
04.20 Comparisons with Crozier and Hetherington
07.00 Taking such a hands on approach meant that he had to be in the office
09.00 Editor not confined to his office

11.00 Good at conceptualising a newspaper as a whole
11.20 Didn't want to fit the editorials round the advertising

Track 3

Disc 3 - recorded 22 October 2002
Track 1
00.40 Start of the Tuesday conferences
02.45 Rules of the conferences
04.00 Margaret Thatcher coming to the conference
05.20 Internal effect of conferences
06.30 The Times crisis and impact on the Guardian printing
08.40 Peter Gibbings

11.10 Question of books coverage while the Times was 'out'
13.45 Education in the Guardian - trying to corner the market
15.00 Circulation figures round the time of the Times crisis and beyond
16.40 Impact of political events on circulation
18.00 Michael Jack's 400 Club dinner party for increased circulation
19.20 Impact of the Times coming back

20.45 Impact of 1981 - Thatcher effect, good gains from the Times
23.10 What did the Guardian offer to ex-Times readers?
24.30 Harry Evans (editor of Sunday Times), Peter Gibbings
26.30 Evans asked Gibbings if the Guardian would like to back a purchase of the Sunday Times
28.30 Difficulty of getting the Guardian culture into another culture - as was found with the Observer
29.45 Borrowing to buy the Surrey Advertiser Group

31.45 Balance between investing in the paper (editorial, marketing) or broadening the Group
33.20 Marketing at the Guardian
36.40 New direction of Advertising

Tracks 2-3

Track 4
00.30 The Guardian as a product
04.50 Editorial technology - editor's impact
06.30 Movements towards new technology
07.45 Union problems - 'protection racket'
09.25 Circulation success yet production problems

11.30 Wapping, pre-Wapping and printing
15.00 Times was unstable and performed poorly (stability at the Guardian)
15.40 Mid 80s - thinking of other ways of making money without increasing cover price

20.45 Launch of Today
23.00 Even journalists didn't realise the impact till much later
23.45 New negotiations with the Trade Unions because of Wapping
25.00 Internal journalistic unhappiness with new technology (as well as printing Unions)
28.00 Turning point - Independent (looking modern and new) and production problems at the Guardian

Disc 4 - recorded 7 July 2003
Track 1

Track 2
00.44 Fleet Street falling apart due to bust with Wapping
01.51 The Independent rising in circulation and the Guardian decreasing and looking like last year's flavour

13.32 How he felt that the Guardian had always had difficulties with design
15.58 Grappling with a transition to a new Atex system (computerisation)

24.19 How people thought that flexibility and creativity was being threatened by computers
26.16 Feature Pages - important changes
27.33 The Hillman object was to make a great change of feel between the different sections

30.18 Important changes on leader pages, constrained in length
39.20 Preston had put his mark on the paper and his reputation on the line with the redesign

44.17 Famous use of different and contrasting type sizes - now spread over the world.

51.02 On the beginning of the Guardian becoming more than one newspaper, in a sense with the supplements
52.22 The evolving of British press
56.10 How the Saturday paper became the paper to buy

Disc 5 - recorded 15 July 2003
Track 1
00.00 The Sarah Tisdall affair

Track 2
07.10 Regrets not having destroyed the documents - did so as not to besmirch the honest name of the Guardian.
12.07 Feelings upon how the Guardian allowed a source to be imprisoned as a result of an article it published

Track 3
00.00 The changing importance and use of legal advice and actions

Track 4
00.00 Reforms of the Sun newspaper, and the visible impact of the Press Complaints Commission

Disc 6 - recorded 21 July 2003
Track 1
00.00 The Sunday Correspondent and the purchase of the Observer

27.00 Successful acquisition of The Observer came out of apprehension about the Sunday market
27.00 There had been previous talks, the merger was 'seemingly obvious'

45.00 No clear decision-making structure between The Guardian and The Observer

71.25 Alan solved The Observer by putting up Roger [Alton] as his strongest chord
Access StatusOpen(part)
Access ConditionsPeter Preston wants to be informed about anybody who wants to listen to the recording and parts of the above might be restricted accordingly.

Access to recording via GNM Digital Repository
FormatCD recording
Minidisc recording
Electronic record
CopyrightGuardian News & Media Ltd and Peter Preston

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