Working for Express Newspapers must have a strange, surreal quality
about it at the moment. It’s easy to throw words like Kafkaesque around
these days but, in the case of the Blackfriars Crusader, that’s what
most of the journalists must feel. As the seven-day operation takes
shape, people are coming and going at a rate of knots and it takes a
pretty level head to just keep on doing your job.
One of the survivors is the City editor Kirstie Hamilton. Taken over to
the Sunday Express from the Sunday Times in April by the dear departed
Sue Douglas, Hamilton is now running the whole business output of the
seven-day paper including personal finance. It’s a huge job, but she’s
determined not to let it phase her.
When you ask if she’s managing to get any sleep at all, she’ll laugh
politely. ‘Well, that’s what everyone asks,’ she says.
But then, she’s learnt to be unflappable from day one of her UK
journalistic career. Hamilton stepped off the plane from New Zealand in
1989 and almost straight into a job at the Evening Standard. On her
first day she was introduced to the City desk by her boss Tony Hilton
with the gloomy statement: ‘This is Kirstie. She can write but she
doesn’t know any companies. She’s on a short-term contract so don’t lend
her any money.’ Stouter hearts may have quailed at such an opener but
Hamilton had a full contract within weeks.
She loves City reporting for its off-diary heart and soul. Working on
the City pages of the Sunday Times is a tough job since, obviously, the
City shuts on Friday. As a result, most of the week is spent digging
around for the gossip and news that doesn’t come from a cosy results
meeting or public announcement. Hamilton, like many of her Sunday City
reporting colleagues, was regularly forced to take a chance on stories
when she could have fallen flat on her face. Fortunately her track
record is very good. After all, if you mess up too often, people just
stop reading you.
‘The worst moment I had was when I had predicted Lloyds’ bid for
Midlands Bank at the time that HSBC were bidding,’ she says. ‘I had to
hold my breath over the whole weekend and I was delighted when they made
an announcement on Monday that totally vindicated my story.’
She wants to take the excitement that a good, digging City story can
generate and get the whole of the Express output to feel that fresh.
‘The wheeling and dealing in the City of London is all about money,
power, ambition and greed but the City pages of most newspapers seem to
try to make it as dull as possible,’ she bemoans.
‘The PR people are employed by City firms to make it dull. If I hear
another chief executive say ‘We’re doing this to enhance shareholder
value’ again I’ll scream. They’re usually only doing it to enhance the
chief executive’s career, but they always say that as if it’s the most
brilliant thing in the world. Although I suppose they are doing it to
enhance shareholder value. After all, they all have share options.’
1989 reporter, City pages Evening Standard
1992 reporter, City pages Sunday Times
1994 deputy City editor Sunday Times
1996 City editor Sunday Express
1996 City editor Daily and Sunday Express