Geoffrey Goodman

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Geoffrey George Goodman CBE (2 July 1922 – 5 September 2013[1]) was a British journalist, broadcaster and writer. Following periods on the News Chronicle and the Daily Herald, he was a senior journalist on the Daily Mirror from 1969 to 1986. He was the founding editor of the quarterly British Journalism Review in 1989, and remained its editor until 2002.

Early life and career[edit]

He was born in Stockport, Cheshire (now Greater Manchester) and was the only child of Edythe (née Bowman)[2] and Michael Goodman, whose Jewish parents had emigrated to Britain from Poland and Russia.[3] His father spent long periods unemployed, and the family moved to Camden Town, London in 1935 in an attempt to change their situation.[4] Goodman was influenced in his choice of becoming a political journalist by overhearing current affairs being discussed in the local dairy, and a shop keeper reporting that the newspapers refused to print stories about the Prince of Wales with Wallis Simpson, "despite most of us knowing exactly what is going on".[5]

After adding a year to his age, he enlisted at the beginning of the Second World War.[6] An RAF pilot during his war service (1941-6),[7] he ended the war as a Flight Lieutenant flying Mosquito planes on photography missions.[2] Goodman studied at the London School of Economics under Harold Laski.[8] In January 1947, he married Margit Freudenbergova, who as a child just before the war had been on the final train of the Kindertransport, a means of rescuing Jewish children from Czechoslovakia.[9] The couple had a son and daughter.[1]

Early career in journalism[edit]

After the end of hostilities, he briefly worked on the Manchester Guardian[10] (1946-7)[7] before joining the Daily Mirror, but was sacked at Christmas 1948. He then joined the News Chronicle. A one-time member of the Communist Party, he left it in 1951, and henceforward supported the Labour Party.[1] A friend of Aneurin Bevan, whom he had first met in 1948 outside St Pancras Town Hall,[4] Goodman gave support to Tribune, the newspaper Bevan had founded just before the war, and helped new staff writer Ian Aitken.[11]

For the News Chronicle, following the 1954 docks strike, he visited all the workplaces over a three-week period. He discovered "astonishing inefficiencies, poor management bordering on the absurd, corrupt trade union practices and a bewildered workforce".[12] Arthur Deakin, the leader of the TGWU, read the articles by the journalist before publication at Goodman's own insistence, and thought the articles were "scandalous inventions".[12] Goodman supported the decision of editor Michael Curtis to oppose the Suez intervention, a stance which split the paper's staff.[13] Slightly later though, until his close friend Michael Foot, he was unconvinced by unilateralism when CND first emerged.[14] Goodman wrote about the socioeconomic makeup of the small town of Sellafield in 1959, around the UK's first nuclear power station.[15]

At the Herald, Sun and the Mirror[edit]

After the closure of the News Chronicle in 1959, he joined the Daily Herald and remained working for IPC when the Herald was turned into The Sun in 1964, where his employer was Hugh Cudlipp,[16] whom he once described as the greatest popular journalist of the 20th Century.[17] Goodman joined the Daily Mirror for a second time in 1969, following Rupert Murdoch's purchase of The Sun.[1] He became industrial editor of Mirror Group Newspapers, a columnist and assistant editor of the Mirror[8] (1976–86).[7] Close to prime minister Harold Wilson, and his successor James Callaghan, who both respected him,[3] he was also able to get on with the Conservative prime minister Edward Heath who invited Goodman to Chequers.[5] For a brief period (July 1975-August 1976) he headed a counter-inflationary unit for the Labour government. The Awkward Warrior, Goodman's biography of trade union leader and politician Frank Cousins, appeared in 1979.

In 1984 Mirror Group Newspapers was acquired by Robert Maxwell, "the maniac on the ninth floor", according to Goodman.[18] In July 1984, Maxwell interfered with one of the journalist's columns on the 1984–85 miners' strike, cutting a revelation concerning Margaret Thatcher's non-conciliatory attitude towards the 1974 miners' strike,[19] and her vote in cabinet against Edward Heath's decision to call a general election in February 1974.[20] Goodman threatened to resign unless given an undertaking that it would not happen again. Such an assurance was also given to his colleagues Paul Foot and John Pilger, but the three men realised that such a guarantee from Maxwell was meaningless.[18] Along with colleague Terence Lancaster, Goodman insisted on dropping his by-line from an article both men co-wrote at Maxwell's insistence stridently attacking NUM leader Arthur Scargill at the peak of the miners' strike.[21] Goodman retired from the Mirror in 1986. He regretted not resigning at the time Maxwell had become his boss.[3][18]

Later years[edit]

Geoffrey Goodman was the founding editor of the quarterly British Journalism Review, which he edited from 1989 to 2002.[1] In his first editorial he wrote that "the business is now subject to a contagious outbreak of squalid, banal, lazy and cowardly journalism whose only qualification is that it helps to make newspaper publishers (and some journalists) rich."[22] His later articles for the BJR considered such issues as the role of journalism in the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s.[23] After ceasing to be editor of the BJR in 2002, he became chairman and later emeritus chairman of its board.[24]

A memoir From Bevan to Blair: Fifty Years Reporting from the Political Frontline was published in 2003. In its account of the Wilson and Callaghan governments, the later volume is free, according to Dominic Wring, of the kind of "score settling" common to memoirs covering this period.[25]

When interviewed by Dan Carrier on 3 February 2011 he was asked about how the role of the Press had changed over his lifetime. While conceding that the amount of information available had greatly increased, "what we do not have is the depth of knowledge, and this translates into a lack of understanding about key current issues. In the old days you had time to reflect. This does not exist now, because of the urge to be first with a scoop, no matter how weak and spurious that scoop is."[5]

In 1998, Goodman was appointed a CBE for his services to journalism.[26] Some years earlier he had received an honorary MA from the University of Oxford and was an associate fellow at Nuffield College (1974–76).[27]

Royal Commission on the Press[edit]

Goodman's papers relating to the Royal Commission on the Press are archived[28] at the University of Warwick. These include files relating to the Mirror Group, the Press Council, Scottish Daily News, advertising, editorial standards and journalism, newspaper distribution, the provincial and foreign press, Harold Wilson's evidence and transcripts of oral evidence, press cuttings, interim report, 1974–77, and papers relating to his biography of Frank Cousins. They also include notes from interviews with Frank Cousins, Jack Jones, Harold Wilson, Harry Nicholas, James Callaghan, Baroness (Dora) Gaitskell, Harold Macmillan and Aneurin Bevan.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Mike Molloy Obituary: Geoffrey Goodman, theguardian.com,, 6 September 2013
  2. ^ a b Obituary: Geoffrey Goodman, telegraph.co.uk, 8 September 2013
  3. ^ a b c Dennis Kavanagh "Geoffrey Goodman: Industrial and political journalist respected and admired by Left and Right", The Independent, 6 September 2013. The Guardian and Daily Telegraph obituaries indicate that Goodman's grandparents only came from Russia.
  4. ^ a b Illtyd Harrington "Hopes and defeats beneath the red standard", Camden New Journal, 16 October 2003
  5. ^ a b c Carrier, Dan (3 February 2011). "Feature: Interview - Geoffrey Goodman talks to Dan Carrier". Islington Tribune. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  6. ^ Some sources, such as Dennis Kavanagh's obituary for The Independent and the Dennis Griffiths' Encyclopedia of the British Press cited below, erroneously give his year of birth as 1921.
  7. ^ a b c "Geoffrey Goodman Papers 1970? - 1979", University of Warwick Library page
  8. ^ a b Dennis Griffiths (ed.) The Encyclopedia of the British Press 1422–1992, London & Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992, p.268
  9. ^ "Fleet Street legend Goodman dies at 92[sic]", Jewish News, 6 September 2013
  10. ^ Guardian contributor profile page
  11. ^ Ian Aitken "Geoffrey Goodman took me under his wing", theguardian.com. 6 September 2013
  12. ^ a b David Kynaston Family Britain, 1951-1957, London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2010 [2009], p.432
  13. ^ Geoffrey Goodman "Suez and Fleet Street", BBC News, 1 November 2006
  14. ^ Kenneth O. Morgan Michael Foot: A Life, London: HarperCollins, 2007, p.203
  15. ^ Goodman, Geoffrey (17 January 1959). "Brave new world". New Statesman. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  16. ^ "Six of the best with Geoffrey Goodman: 'My story helped bring an end to the Vietnam war'", Press Gazette, 5 December 2012
  17. ^ Geoffrey Goodman "Epic Journey", British Journalism Review, 17:4, December 2006, p.95-96, 95
  18. ^ a b c Geoffrey Goodman "Foot – at the door", British Journalism Review, 11:4, 2000, pp.70-71
  19. ^ John Pilger Heroes, London: Vintage, 2001 [1986], p.552
  20. ^ Francis Beckett and David Hencke Marching to the Fault Line, London: Constable & Robinson, 2009, p.114
  21. ^ Leapman, Michael (9 October 2007). "Terence Lancaster". The Independent. Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  22. ^ cited by Roy Greenslade "Geoffrey Goodman, the 'proper gent' who campaigned to improve journalism", theguardian.com (blog), 9 September 2013
  23. ^ Goodman, Geoffrey (1999). "Too many Truths". British Journalism Review, 10:2. Retrieved 7 September 2013. [permanent dead link]
  24. ^ "Geoffrey Goodman", Comment is Free website
  25. ^ Dominic Wring "Book Review: From Bevan to Blair: Fifty Years’ Reporting from the Political Front Line", Journalism, 6:2, 2005, pp.249-50, 249.
  26. ^ "Former Daily Mirror industrial editor Geoffrey Goodman dies aged 92", Press Gazette, 6 September 2013.
  27. ^ "Geoffrey Goodman, Esq, CBE Authorised Biography", Debrett's
  28. ^ Goodman, Geoffrey. "Geoffrey Goodman Papers 1970? - 1979". Retrieved 16 July 2011. 

External links[edit]