Press Area

Copytakers were once a vital part of the newsroom. Sometimes they messed up, sometimes they saved your bacon. Please send us your memories, fond or otherwise.

There's was the well-respected restaurant guide that described an outdoor seating area as being "protected from the elements by a giant canape".
Donald Reid, The List

I can remember, in my days at The Scotsman, a football journalist dictating the report of a match in which a player had scored for both teams (ie one of the goals was an own-goal). The writer had described him, in classic football-speak, as being "saint and sinner". Unfortunately, he must have had a lisp as it appeared in the hard copy as "faint and thinner".

Paul Forsyth

When I worked at the Daily Express in the mid-Nineties we used copytakers from south of the Border who were clearly not au fait with the personalities of Scottish football. This resulted in my match report from Morton against Rangers (I'm sure it was a testimonial for Cappielow stalwart John Boag) referencing the top Rangers striker - of Asian origin - Ali McCoist. It made me cringe at the time but gives me a good laugh now!
Gary Ralston, Daily Record sport

We’ve all screwed up at some point or another. I once went through a Slade story at the last minute, on the Mail in Glasgow, laughing like a drain as I changed the ridiculous misspelling of the lead singer’s name from Holder to Holden. My laughter stopped promptly when the editor saw what I’d done. Years later, in London, another senior person did the same thing, but this time changed Bono to Bobo. I’ve not listened to a U2 track without tears in my eyes since…
Kenny Campbell, Editor, Metro

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Many years ago I worked for a struggling Dundee-based national magazine and newspaper publisher, in their ‘youth’ magazines dept. It was the time when glossy young women’s magazines were hitting the shelves, like Just Seventeen and Mizz. So our doughty publishers spent a great deal of time and money planning their entry into this market, with an unprecedented TV advertising campaign in the works. They gathered all the staff together to proudly launch the campaign. We all sat waiting expectantly as the bearded 40-something Masonic Dundonian who was the Managing Editor (and who knew precisely nothing about teenagers) stood up, drew back the curtains and announced...“Shout... A Girl's First Monthly” Oh, how we laughed.
My favourite copytaking error was from BBC Scotland around 1980 when the copy should have read: "The Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr. George Younger (we were more formal in those days) has announced the date for the annual grey seal cull in Orkney." It came up on our wires as "The Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr. George Younger has announced the date for the annual Gracie Fields cull in Orkney."
Reevel Alderson, BBC Scotland Home Affairs Correspondent

I think what most people forget is that it was the copytaker who got you out of trouble at the very beginning – ‘Are you sure that is the Procurator Fiscal’s name and not that of the Sheriff Clerk?’ is one that I remember on the first day of covering a new court.
Iain Fleming, news reporter at Evening Times, Daily Mail, The Herald

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I once phoned copy to Aberdeen Press and Journal about the death of Dundee man who died at the hands of his psychopathic brother in a stabbing in the red light area of Paris. I was amused to receive an excited phone call from the newsdesk enquiring  in Doric tones: "Whit's a' this aboot a stabbing in Harris?" I was unaware that they had bordellos in the God-fearing Western Isles where they are still awaiting traffic lights.
Graham Ogilvy,
Having copytakers on staff meant there was a freephone 0800 number widely available for journalists. I can't have been the only person that handed out the number to friends and family. Come 11.30pm, when we were off stone, the other subs got calls from spouses, asking when they'd be home. I, on the other hand, used to get calls from friends who were leaving the pub, awash with beer, looking for a little dirty conversation – 0898 calls on 0800 budgets.
Female sub, Herald Sports Desk, 1997-98

On arriving back home in Scotland the next day I picked up the paper and read a 1000-word report which said: ‘The San Marino ground, lined by huge hedges and hardly a venue which has known great grammar...' Listening to my panicky words tumble through the phone line, that had probably been a Freudian slip by the copytaker.
Michael Grant, Chief Football Writer, Sunday Herald

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One afternoon in the newsroom, the hack had succumbed to his liquid lunch and was snoring peacefully over his typewriter while the London-based news desk was howling for copy,  and Archie was having to act as switchboard operator as well as copytaker
Bill Mackintosh
Evening Express Reporter, 1975 to 1984

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The phone box itself always smelled of stale urine and old fish and chips. It was a widely held belief in some quarters that BT actually sprayed their boxes with these pungent aromas and covered the handsets with grease to make reporters feel more comfortable.
Ian Bruce, Herald Defence Correspondent, 1982-2009
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