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The modern face of news

Richard Ingrams in the Telegraph newsroom

By Richard Ingrams
Today programme guest editor

In a corner of the Daily Telegraph's massive open-space newsroom in the paper's new HQ in London's Buckingham Palace Road hangs a handsome portrait in oils of the Telegraph's legendary reporter and one-time editor Bill Deedes.

Bill Deeds portrait at the Telegraph
Bill Deedes keeps a watchful eye on Richard Ingrams

Gazing at the picture whilst on my guided tour of the paper - part of my exciting experiment as the guest editor of Radio 4's Today programme - I couldn't help wondering what Bill, who died in 2007 at the age of 94, would make of the extraordinary transformation that has taken place since his death.

For a start, the Telegraph has moved from Canary Wharf to Victoria, a move that Bill, who spent most of his waking life in Fleet Street, would almost certainly welcome.

It's not just easier for journalists to get to, it means that they are once again at the heart of things in Central London, a stone's throw from Parliament, the Law Courts and Whitehall.

But what would he have made of the fundamental change in the Telegraph's operation, from being a simple newspaper to being a combination of paper and complex on-line production?

In the huge newsroom with rows of desks branching out from a central Arthurian round table (the place for editorial conferences) there is a strangely silent atmosphere.

Voices are muffled and during our hour-long tour we heard only a handful of phones ringing.

The Telegraph video suite
Video cameras at the Telegraph facilitate a new kind of journalism

There are men and women here working not only on the next edition of the paper but items for the Telegraph website.

One calls it a website but in many respects it seems more like a TV channel - witness the mini-studios on the newsroom's periphery equipped with lights, cameras and sound proofing which enable the telegraph to produce and edit TV-style news reports and interviews, using the paper's journalists.

It is all an experiment and, I imagine, an expensive one.

But behind it, I am certain, lurks the fear in the ranks of the management that the digital world is on the march and that there could come a time, perhaps not so far in the future, when papers become obsolete - replaced by the internet as the sole source of detailed news.

The Telegraph library
A few of the remaining books in the Telegraph newsroom

As proof of the way things are moving, I noted in a far corner of the newsroom a few shelves of books.

Once, a paper like the telegraph would have boasted a substantial library not just of books but newspaper cuttings going back many years - a vital repository of information.

But, as schools have discovered, books (unlike the web) are untidy and take up a lot of space.

All necessary information, we persuade ourselves, is now available on-line.

Only a handful of standard reference books survive at the telegraph, a reminder to journalists that the world in which Bill Deedes flourished is falling away at alarming pace.

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