During a lecture on the famed journalist Hugh Cudlipp, Kevin Maguire challenged present and future generations of journalists to be committed to truth and freedom

 

The fear that the newspaper as a means of communication and media platform is dying out is whispered in hushed tones. Skyrocketing paper prices, slumps in sales and the loss of coveted advertisers scares this generation’s writers, and worse still, the fear can creep into the journalistic craft and tarnish standards.

Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror Associate Editor and New Statesman columnist, has an ‘unflinching belief in the essential power of journalism’ and is a prime example of a man ready to speak up for his profession without fear. ‘The rise and fall of newspapers wouldn’t faze Hugh Cudlipp’ said Maguire about the ‘Fleet Street superstar’ and late editorial director of the Daily Mirror, who died aged 84 in 1998, at a talk celebrating his memory.

Maguire celebrated the survivalist nature of the traditional journalistic medium — the newspaper — with applause by speaking of the launch of The New Day as ‘an unbelievably exciting moment’ for a journalist with ‘ink in his veins’ and a ‘freshly digitized heart’. He then referred to the internet as ‘the mother of all upheavals’ that has propelled digital journalism to become ‘one of the most fundamental advances in the progress of mankind, brilliantly transformative and stupendously disruptive’.

Maguire places Cudlipp ‘atop the pantheon of British journalists alongside other all-time greats who left their marks on history’, emphasizing that this is a man worthy of commemoration not for making the news an exclusive luxury, but for believing that ‘nothing was too good for working people’.

The purpose of a paper should be to keep people involved with the surrounding world and ‘enlarge knowledge and freedom’, said John Beavan, Cudlipp’s good friend and colleague. Maguire turned to his audience of seasoned journalists as well as the eager faces of aspiring young people and told them: ‘A good paper, Cudlipp wrote, must be an Open University. Yet it must also destroy taboos and foment controversy’. The news must be accessible in order that it may be scrutinized and questioned.

Maguire concluded the lecture with a call out for bravery in his profession: ‘Let’s not hide it. Let’s shout about it. Let’s go forward with confidence. Let’s show our pride in journalism’. Remembering Cudlipp should not be a ‘nostalgic’ tribute but should remain current, inspiring future generations to go forth and produce great journalism.

One such individual is the young journalist Francesca Ebel who was presented with the £1,000 Hugh Cudlipp Student Award for her reporting on the suffering of ordinary civilians due to the fighting in Ukraine.