Text and the City: How the Mail pioneered financial journalism

During the autumn of 1999, I took a telephone name from an emissary of Paul Dacre, the commanding editor of the Daily Mail. 

Robin Esser, in the superb custom of the newspaper, invited me to hitch him for a glass of champagne at the Howard Hotel on the Embankment in central London.

He informed me that Andrew Alexander, who had been the Daily Mail’s astringent City Editor, can be retiring from full-time responsibility in May 2000 and would I be occupied with the job?

Historic: The Royal Exchange (proper) and Bank of England (left) at the flip of the century

For the earlier decade, I had been the Financial Editor of the Guardian and in political phrases can be making the longest journey in journalism, from left to proper. I additionally understood that if I have been to land the publish, I’d be entering into the footsteps of giants.

On most papers, metropolis and business editors come and go however at the Mail it’s a vocation.

My most well-known predecessor, Sir Patrick Sergeant, who’s now aged ’97 not out’, stated this weekend: ‘Soon after I turned City Editor in 1960, Lord Rothermere [Esmond Harmsworth] requested me if I used to be blissful there.

‘I stated, ‘Very blissful, thanks, sir.’ He replied, ‘Good, as a result of you’ll find that City Editors go on for a very long time right here, whereas managers come and go.’ I used to be City Editor for twenty-four years and my predecessor for 25 years.’

As a neophyte financial journalist in the early Nineteen Seventies, Sergeant’s commentaries on the Mail City pages have been my first port of name.

Not solely had he reinvented financial journalism, in order that it appealed to the extraordinary reader not simply the City’s money males, however he may single-handedly transfer a share worth or markets.

He had the ear of the nation’s bosses, successive governors of the Bank of England and Number 11.

One of his enduring legacies was the paper’s personal finance part, Money Mail, the first on any nationwide newspaper. 

He put a staff collectively which targeted on the on a regular basis points confronting readers: finest buys in financial savings, mortgages, insurance coverage and far more.

The part’s editor Margaret Stone was famed for her sage recommendation and ‘ask Margaret’ letters nonetheless arrive in the City Office right this moment, now ably answered by her rapid successor Tony Hazell.

The reminiscence of Sergeant’s superb reign and the skill of his successor Andrew Alexander to rally the troops round the flag of Thatcherite laissez-faire economics was legendary.

Enduring legacy: Sir Patrick Sergeant reinvented financial journalism during his 24 years as City Editor

Enduring legacy: Sir Patrick Sergeant reinvented financial journalism throughout his 24 years as City Editor

Alexander was a Eurosceptic lengthy earlier than Brexit came visiting the horizon. Among his nice scoops was the revelation in 1989 that Lord Hanson had acquired a strategic stake in Britain’s greatest industrial group ICI.

It set off a prepare of occasions which noticed ICI’s pharmaceutical arm Astrazeneca cut up off as a separate company main, in the age of Covid, to the folks’s vaccine.

Charles Duguid, whose time as City Editor started in 1906, is one other who deserves to be well-remembered. 

Duguid’s standing stemmed from his authorship of How To Read The Money Article, a best-seller which helped to popularise funding by personal residents.

On the eve of the First World War, the London Stock Exchange (LSE) was closed amid a deep recession, chaos on the markets and a debacle over the problem of the War Loan.

Amid nice disgruntlement amongst the 5,000 members of the London Stock Exchange, Duguid stepped into the breach. 

On August 1, 1914, he took out half web page commercials in the Financial Times and Financial News saying that with the LSE shut, ‘sellers who want money for securities they maintain, and consumers who want securities at the current low costs’ may purchase and promote shares on the Daily Mail Exchange for 2 shillings and six pence for every deal.

The Daily Mail Exchange was vastly busy till August 1915. Trading was ultimately suspended ‘owing to battle circumstances now prevailing, the stagnation in the stock and share dealing and the stress of battle information on our area.’ 

Helping hand: Renowned Money Mail editor Margaret Stone was famed for her sage advice

Helping hand: Renowned Money Mail editor Margaret Stone was famed for her sage recommendation

For a year, the Daily Mail Exchange was the major venue for share dealing in Great Britain!

The timing was notably essential due to the financial disruption in the interval main as much as the battle.

Former governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King says this was the biggest British financial disaster till it was surpassed by the banking meltdown of 2007-09 almost a century later.

The golden legacy of the Mail’s City, financial and personal finance protection lives on.

I and my colleague, Business Editor Ruth Sunderland, together with Victoria Bischoff and her Money Mail reporters, all write for you, the reader.

We care about you, the personal investor, whether or not you selected to instantly dive into the stock market or save via an ISA, belief or a pension fund.

But we additionally care about the way forward for Britain. That is why over the final twenty years now we have campaigned in opposition to financially pushed abroad takeovers with some exceptional successes.

If it weren’t for us taking sides, our greatest defence company BAE may need ended up as a part of Airbus, Astrazeneca an offshoot of Pfizer and Unilever swallowed by Kraft Heinz or hiding away in Rotterdam.

The City pages are strident believers in the magic of the markets, free enterprise, wealth creation and aspiration.

But we additionally consider in equity, much less greed and a greater deal for ladies and minorities in the nation’s boardrooms and business extra broadly.

We have realized from our illustrious forebears. Hopefully, future generations of City reporters, whether or not on the printed web page, in the broadcast studios and on-line, can be taught one thing from us.

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