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Former editorial director to publish new edition of memoir

A former regional editorial boss who wrote an acclaimed memoir about his life in journalism is publishing a new edition – with a new section on ‘lost’ newspaper terminology.

Neil Benson’s ‘You Can’t Libel the Dead’ has proved one of the most successful journalism autobiographies in recent years, at one time creeping onto the Amazon best-seller lists.

Since the first edition went to press in 2022, former Reach editorial director Neil has compiled a glossary of current and extinct newspaper production terms which was featured on HTFP here.

Now Neil is combining the two by releasing a new edition of the book with the glossary – called ‘the Lost Lanaguage of Newspapers – included as an appendix.


Neil told HTFP: “Earlier this year, I compiled a glossary of weird and wonderful terms from the days of hot metal production, which I called The Lost Language of Newspapers.

“When I posted it on my social channels, the piece really took off. Journalists from across the world began to chip in their own contributions and it was reproduced in publishing magazines in the UK and the USA.

“Off the back of that, I decided to publish a new edition of You Can’t Libel the Dead, with the Lost Language included as an appendix. I liked the idea of preserving the piece for posterity, and it adds extra value for readers of the book.

“So if you’d like to know the difference between a hamper, an earpiece and a dog’s dick, it’s all there in the updated edition.”

Neil edited the Coventry Telegraph and Newcastle Chronicle before becoming editorial director of Reach plc predecessor company Trinity Mirror.

Since leaving Reach in 2019, Neil has worked as a media consultant specialising in leadership development and also chairs of the Editors’ Code of Practice committee.

You Can’t Libel the Dead is available from and other online bookstores, price £11.45.

HTFP is pleased to be able to publish a further extract fom the book below.

In this extract from his memoir You Can’t Libel the Dead, Neil Benson recounts a dramatic tale from his years at the Evening Chronicle, Newcastle.

One of the biggest stories in my time as editor of the Chronicle was the murder of notorious Tyneside hard man Viv Graham, gunned down in the street on New Year’s Eve. From my point of view, the killer’s timing couldn’t have been worse.

Graham, a former amateur boxer, made his money by organising club doormen across Tyneside, while running an extortion racket on the side. He had a fearsome reputation for violence and had served time in jail for a ferocious assault on a rival doorman. The victim refused to give evidence but the brutal beating had been captured on CCTV. After his release, Graham locked horns with a number of drug gangs, which led to several attempts on his life.

On New Year’s Eve 1993, as he walked along Wallsend High Street with a copy of the Evening Chronicle tucked under his arm, he was shot three times by a drive-by assassin in a Ford Escort. Graham, who often said he wouldn’t see 40, died in North Tyneside General Hospital four hours later. He was 34.

What made the timing so bad for the Chronicle was that the shooting happened a few hours after our New Year’s Eve edition had been printed. With no web site in those days, we had no means of covering the story until after the Bank Holiday weekend. That was three days away, and by then the local radio and TV stations, as well as our sister newspapers had swarmed all over this shocking murder.

On the morning of January 4, I arrived at the office to find we had no new angles for that day’s edition. But if ever there was a ‘Chronicle story’, this was it. I told the news desk to throw all their resources at finding new lines on the killing. We had no pictures to support the story, so illustrator Geoff Laws was tasked with creating an artist’s impression of the moment Graham was shot. Meanwhile, crime reporter Brenda Hickman, just back from holiday, started working her police contacts.

The whole team responded brilliantly. We secured an exclusive interview with Graham’s girlfriend, followed a day or two later by an interview with another woman who, unknown to the girlfriend, was in a long-term relationship with Graham and had children by him.

Each story we broke led to another. The police wanted to work with us, because the publicity could help them in the murder inquiry, and Graham’s family were keen to talk. From a cold, stuttering start, the Chronicle snatched ownership of the story from the rest of the North East media – and the exclusives kept on coming.

Coverage of Graham’s murder and his luridly-colourful life led our front page for 14 consecutive editions. A few readers rang in to complain, telling us they had had their fill of Graham, and one or two accused us of glorifying him. But the newspaper sales graph doesn’t lie; it showed that Tyneside could not get enough of this story, and we were eager to oblige. Journalistically, it was one of my team’s finest moments, and I could not have been more proud of them.

But despite more than 1,000 police interviews, the offer of a £100,000 reward by his family and blanket coverage in the media, the murder of Viv Graham remains unsolved.