Opinion: The curse of Management

June 9, 2014 in Comment, General

Bill Stott from Punch magazine: "Be positive! At least  now we know that being able to fly has got noting to do with having a pointy head"

Bill Stott from Punch: “Be positive! At least now we know that being able to fly has got nothing to do with having a pointy head!” Click image to enlarge

In a somewhat acrimonious departure, Richard Ingrams has resigned as editor of The Oldie. In this opinion piece, Bill Stott sees echoes from the latter days of Punch magazine and hopes that cartoonists will not see history repeat itself.

Whilst it might sound uncomfortably like a medical examination, there’s interesting stuff coming out of The Oldie right now. Quite a bit of bile. The departure of the multi-faceted, sometimes contradictory Richard Ingrams will be a huge loss, not only to The Oldie, but to gag cartooning in the UK.

Logically, bearing in mind the fact that his team apparently liked and respected him, the job should go to one of them and a cartoon-friendly status quo will spread a warm glow throughout Humourland. However, given James Pembroke’s apparent management style and his grasp of the purse strings, that may well not happen.

The Oldie’s predicament reminds me of the beginning of the end for Punch, a magazine strong on cartoons and humour but which never made a profit in its 500-year existence, unlike The Oldie which has loads of readers and does make a profit.

The similarity lies with “management”. Alan Coren, probably one of the best Punch editors, fell out with those who bought the mag and got sacked. He was locked out of his office, in fact.

After a few false starts, a new bought-in editor was presented to a restaurant full of cartoonists in thatLondon. He foolishly delayed them from getting at the free food and drink by climbing on to a rostrum to tell all hands about his vision for the new Punch. I seem to remember the sixth-form market being mentioned. Honest!

The new ed was apparently a very good manager. Quite soon after his appointment, which was made despite the existence of excellent candidates already on board, Punch ceased to be.

Could this happen to The Oldie?

Thanks Bill. We hope the answer to your last question is no! We will continue to follow developments at The Oldie, noting for starters that Mr Ingrams appears to have influential friends

7 responses to Opinion: The curse of Management

  1. Thanks for this, Bill – insightful and thought-provoking as ever…

  2. I received a letter from James Pembroke today, as presumably did the other contributors, explaining what had happened, and hoping we’d continue working for the mag. He praised Richard highly, with lots of subtle digs at him…

  3. Excellent Mr Stott. I liked the piece in The Guardian today too. In it Ingrams refutes Pembroke’s allegations that he resigned because he found the workload to heavy saying that all he really did was choose the cartoons.


  4. Bill’s accurate observation that Punch in its 500 year old history never made a profit is a revealing one. Just like a building of historical and cultural importance, there should have been a Grade 2 listing imposed on Punch and its upkeep and sustainability entrusted to a mega rich philanthropist. Erm…

    The Oldie has done wonders in its relatively short lifetime. Regarded by some as the ‘old Punch’ in the quality of its writing and artwork, good management is still required to compliment the high editorial content, so fingers crossed that its survival continues after the current in-house dust has settled.
  5. Excellent article, Bill (and fantastic cartoon, by the way). 

    Where’s that nice Felix Dennis when you need him? Nothing like a rich, delightfully mad old hippie to sort things out. 
  6. Interesting thought, Andy. Who knows what will happen. I often think that this sort of spat which rapidly grows into a serious stand-off results from essentially personal differences.

    Mr Ingrams isn’t someone to trade put-downs with. He’s also not one to be gathered into a corporate management regime. He does what he does – edits The Oldie – very well apparently, and relies on Mr Pembroke to supply the money to allow him to do so. Perhaps Mr Pembroke felt that he needed to impress on Mr Ingrams that he should be more of a team player. Hmmmm.

  7. The problem with Punch was the articles. Bloody boring, middle-of-the-road, sensible cardigan middle class tosh, they were. 

    Ingrams is refreshingly honest in saying all he did was choose the cartoons. I’m even more convinced today than when I was a lad starting out that the successful choosing of the cartoons, and the plentiful numbers of those cartoons, are the most important aspects in the success of a humour magazine.

    If you removed cartoons from Private Eye, sales would plummet.

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