This was how one Gazette editor described producing The Gazette in the Founder’s day. Spedan Lewis insisted that there would be no shoddiness in the production of the magazine because he felt it was supremely important as a channel of communication and he studied the draft pages like a hawk.
From the first edition published on 16 March 1918 he confirmed that “The main object of the paper is to maintain closer touch between the different parts of the Company’s Staff, especially between the Management and all the rest, than can exist without such means”.
“You can write in it just whatever you like. Apart from any expressly official communications, it will be entirely unofficial and separate from the Management, exactly as the Newspaper press is unofficial and separate from the Government, though it may publish Government announcements”.
The novel idea of providing space for Partners to express their opinions anonymously on the Letters page was promoted from day one, with confirmation that no attempt was to be made to discover the authorship of any contributions. This made the Gazette a totally unique house magazine used by Partners and researchers alike, to investigate the way the Partnership has developed.
Considering the first issues were published whilst the country was still at war, it is not perhaps surprising that there are, not only company rules, but articles suggesting how to use the potato to save cereal and even a recipe for Pudding Verdun!
By 1919 The Gazette was published weekly and the magazine increased in size with a print run of 250 but readers rejected Spedan’s idea that they should be charged 2d per copy. However, by 1921 the 2d charge had been introduced and it remained until February 1931 when the price went down to 1d. 1937 saw the first in a series of major design changes with the introduction of the familiar A4 size which only changed in 2003.
Despite problems including reports that The Gazette office typewriter went missing in 1940 the magazine continued to be published throughout the Second World War.
The destruction of John Lewis Oxford Street that same year was reported to the other branches with the edition that week summing up the bulldog spirit. The Gazette commented “Although we have had the worst possible stroke of luck we can at least congratulate ourselves that the Partnership is big enough and tough enough to take it”.
After the trauma of World War II came the fuel crisis of March 1947, during which time The Gazette was reduced to a two page news bulletin.
The problems were overcome and in June of that year the post of general editor was created. Not an easy role to fulfil, with Spedan still subjecting the editorial content to meticulous scrutiny, as Barbara Thomas was to recall “This frequently resulted in brisk memoranda comparing the Editor’s mental capacity (unfavourably) with that of a particularly dim-witted gastropod”.
However, although Editors were to come and go, The Gazette continued. The first coloured photograph – of the new yacht Ann Speed – was published in 1952 and the first photographic report followed three years later. Problems with printing during the national printers’ strike in 1959 resulted in The Gazette being run off on a duplicator, stapled together and despatched by Gazette office members who managed to send out 5,000 copies in this format each week.
The first cover using a photographic print appeared in 1961 and the first colour cover accompanied the Christmas edition the following year. A photographic cover became a regular feature in 1964 and this was amalgamated with the new house style, designed by Hans Schleiger, which was introduced throughout the Partnership in 1965.
In 1990 desktop publishing was introduced and gone were the days when type was literally cut and pasted onto the pages before going to the printers. New technology became an increasingly important feature in the production of the magazine, allowing new formats and layout techniques to keep The Gazette‘s appearance fresh and interesting.
But by 2002 it was decided it was time for a major overhaul of the layout, size and content. How this was to be achieved without compromising the Partnership’s rigorous standards for accurate reporting was a positive reflection on the professionalism of The Gazette‘s small team of designers, journalists and editors.
Bringing us up to date
The new style Gazette hit the shelves on 1 February 2003 with the then general editor, Paul Burden, describing the changes as ‘the culmination of a process which has been continuing for the whole of our 84 year history’. The larger format Gazette was reviewed again in 2005 when it was decided to make further layout and editorial changes.
The first edition of the new format was designed to be easier to read with a sharper business focus. The headlines that week included coverage of the new ‘Spring into Summer’ press show, a report from the Waitrose Council meeting and a report on Long Leave. The introduction of the G Interview with leading figures from both inside and outside the Partnership was designed to allow Partners to hear about important new trends and developments and continues to be a popular feature of the Gazette today.
This evolution of the Gazette is destined to continue over the coming years, so, as they say in the trade, watch this space!