As HTFP reported on Tuesday, plans have been submitted to demolish The Press Bar, in Glasgow, which is next to the former offices of sister dailies the Glasgow Evening Times and The Herald, and has been frequented by journalists since the 1920s.
John, now director of the Scottish Newspaper Society, said that the notion of booze and journalists was “inextricable in the public imagination”
He wrote: “Even if the odd columnist keeps the tradition of long lunches alive, the days of reporters existing entirely on a liquid diet are long gone and with them the need for a bar snuggled next to the office.”
John added: “The newspaper pub wasn’t just a bar, it was a department and the bar staff vital support workers; not just boozers but business exchanges.
“These places were where tips were passed on, scores settled, rumours started and rewards given in kind, where there were often more politicians propping up the bar than reporters, full in the knowledge that it was all going down on expenses.
“And if people got hammered and moaned about the boss at the same time, then everyone went home happy, usually thanks to an office taxi-chit. Who needed media networking events in those days?
“As a student on this paper, I’d marvelled at some of the reporting pack knocking it back at lunchtime when we were out covering the Miners’ Strike but of course not everyone knew when to stop. Shattered marriages, shortened careers and shortened lives were the inevitable consequence and every old newspaper hand has tales of colleagues’ lives blighted by drink.
“Fortunately I learnt early on that mixing drink and work wasn’t for me – after a couple of lunchtime pints all I wanted to do was sleep – and on moving to Newcastle, where the Chronicle and Journal had a built-in pub like the Press Bar, senior colleagues used to sink several pints during the evening break before heading back to sign off the pages. They couldn’t drive a car but were driving the paper.”
In his piece John recalled associations between papers and certain pubs including the Daily Record with The Copy Cat on Glasgow’s Anderston Quay, and the Scotsman and Edinburgh Evening News with The Jinglin’ Geordie on the city’s Fleshmarket Close.
He continued: “The Copy Cat purred its last in 2009 and although the Jinglin’ Geordie is still serving it has never been the same since the last big Friday night in November 1999 when the papers flitted to Holyrood Road. Drinking sessions during a normal working shift seem as alien now as smoking in the office, and it’s not just because of the new drink-drive limit.
“The slow advance of anti-drink culture will surely mean the public’s relationship with alcohol will continue to change, although it probably won’t feel like it to the men and women in the emergency services over the next two nights as the end-of-work party season reaches a climax.
“But I’ll certainly raise a Christmas glass to those on either side of the counter who made Scottish newspapers the institutions they were and should still remain.”