by Clare Hastings
My mother was a career journalist, at that glorious time when to be a ‘journalist’ was not a dirty word. Fake news was unthinkable and the paparazzi yet to be invented. To work on a ‘daily’ was romantic, a grand ambition, the papers to be relished and poured over, and journalists were welcomed and cheered rather than gazed at with suspicion and derision.
Anne would have been deeply depressed to hear there was such a thing as The Leveson Inquiry. She herself was a very moral character, not in a puritanical way - she was produced on behalf of the defense during the ‘Trial of Lady Chatterley’- but she was a passionate believer in the truth. She disliked any form of lying, and would rather have missed her stop than got off the bus without paying. Anne also believed that writers should take time to check their facts, and was utterly dismissive of the ones that didn’t.
In 1953 she was hired by Harold Keeble, the editor, to write an article for the Sunday Express. It was about Queen Mary, who had recently died. It was popular. Anne was commissioned again, and then again. It was not long before she was employed to fill her own page. This was to appear every Sunday, she was to be their ‘woman’s editor’, with the brief to inform and entertain the female reader. The Sunday Express readership boasted in 1954 a heady readership of nearly four million these were grand times for a Sunday. To reach this audience every week meant Anne had become at the age of 39, a very serious player. This is a circulation today’s papers could only dream of.
Called ‘The Anne Scott-James Page’ it set the bar for a new format of writing. I have often thought that with a couple of name changes, it would be simple to place Anne’s column in a newspaper today and invite readers to notice the differences. Topics that were on trend in 1953 seem tremendously familiar today. She relished a good quote, but then the quotes did come from people who had actually achieved something. She appealed to her readers to challenge her, thus involving them in the column and creating quite a feisty ‘inbox’ but most important of all she was allowed free reign. The weekly page was filled with her pithy opinions on children, food (rationing only completely ended in 1954, nine years after the end of the war), interiors, fashion, beauty, travel and some political comments all squashed in together. A piece on eyebrow tweezing, made way for an interview with Francoise Sagan which would then lead to an opinion on childbirth. All in all, it made for a rollicking read.
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