02 May 2009

An editorial with a difference

Increasingly I find myself persuaded not to immediately turn to Barry Doe's The Fare Dealer pages in each new edition of RAIL magazine and instead find myself going straight for the more orthodox page 1: managing editor Nigel Harris' editorial. They're always entertaining and over the past few months have become an absolute joy to read.

Harris writes in a very energetic and passionate style and never seems afraid to hold back when criticising organisations either within or connected to the railway industry. Individuals are also given much (justifiable?) criticism whenever he feels the occasions warrants it. And from the editor of a magazine so frequently read by the railway's opinion makers, directors and managers he's certainly not afraid to hold back.

Take the latest 'Comment' section; the following are one-liners taken from Harris' 18 paragraph editorial concerning how it is now more crucial than ever for the rail industry to speak with one voice.

"... as we all have to pay yet more for the incompetence, greed and arrogance of Sir Fred Goodwin and his ilk." "By 2007, civil servants and their wretched consultants admitted that this procurement [proposed single IT system for the entire prison/probation services] had been so very badly cocked-up.." "... there's the soaring arrogance of incompetent NHS top brass and civil servants..." "... £14 billion has been swilled down the drain by clueless civil servants..." "It is this profligate and wasteful Government, which I fear will soon want to claw back cash..." "Yet this is only about half of what feckless Sir Humphrey and his grasping IT consultants have wasted..." "But Network Rail's arrogance and insatiable desire to control matters way beyond its remit..."

Harris' success is undoubtedly resultant from these comments echoing the thoughts of RAIL's readership. Too many editors appear detached from their readership or from what their publication's industry is all about. Whether or not Harris' writing style reflects his personality is another matter. Similar to an elderly woman who's just had her first sip of tea after a long day, Harris' editorials really do "hit the spot!" (GL)

Nigel Harris maintains his own blog, forming part of the RAIL website. It can be accessed by clicking here.