I’m not quite sure how I’ve managed to overlook The Guardian’s Online Archives up until now.
At the moment, it’s a fairly thin selection of obvious stories, covering the inauguration then assassination (reported by one Alastair Cooke) of John F Kennedy, Beatlemania in America, and the like. There’s a gem of a report on 1966 and all that:
Ball cannot have worked harder in his life. He and Stiles were almost twin souls even to the extent of disagreeing with some of the referee’s decisions. They played until they were entitled to drop, but neither of them knows the meaning of the word “surrender”. They never will be everyone’s cup of tea, so to say. Occasional naughtiness apart, however, they are first class fighting men and England cannot do without them.
This piece is a fine little insight into the development of modern sport. You can sense from the journalist’s slight disdain of the fighting chaps that the age of gentlemen and players was not quite past in the late sixties. First names are not used, a classic public school affectation. Bobby Charlton is referred to throughout as R. Charlton, so as to distinguish from his brother. These days, a nickname or Homeric formula (’the quicksilver Frenchman’, ‘the strong-grieved Irishman’, ‘the volatile Welshman’) would suffice.
In fact, the main virtue of the archive is as an exhibition of the changing notes of journalistic manner. The Beatles piece, striking a knowingly jocular pose, could almost have been written today. This report of a Khrushchev speech burying the spectre of Stalin (by ‘a student of Soviet Affairs’) could not. These days, speeches are not reported straight. They are either deeply contextualised into news or treated as extended parliamentary sketches.
Everything, I realise, now arrives predigested. From newspaper to newspapper in one century.