The Lichfield Mercury at 200

On the 15th March the Society commenced its 2016/17 programme at our new venue - the Lichfield Room, Wade Street Community Hall, in Frog Lane. We were addressed by Keith Boughey on the bi-centenary of the Lichfield Mercury. Keith is a former editor of the newspaper who held senior positions during the turbulent 1950s to 1970s, when changes were being enacted, so he spoke with inside knowledge.

Keith used various back issues of the Mercury as his source material, together with vintage copies of 'The Times', to demonstrate his assertion that in general the newspaper industry was committed to, and applied, high standards of literacy to its products - and he read out numerous pieces as examples. Interestingly, at that time 'The Times' sold for sixpence halfpenny a copy for its four page long daily broadsheet (inclusive of advertising) whereas 'The Mercury' sold for a penny halfpenny. Is this an example of the English class system at work?

Like most industries the newspaper business is littered with competition and the chase for productivity and efficiency is paramount. We were told of the main changes in the technology of the printing process from Caxton through to the modern Web Offset printing systems. Where the technology of the digital age will take us is still open to conjecture.

Like most good speakers Keith sprinkled his talk with anecdotes to keep his audience amused. Overall we were well entertained. It was a very enjoyable evening with lots more to come as the new programme proceeds.

Tony Crookes
March, 2016