‘Small earthquake’ lives on

In his wonderful memoirs Claud Cockburn, tells of his early days on the Times and of a competition that sub-editors ran to see who could come up with the most boring headline. The winner was “Small earthquake in Chile — not many dead.” This clipping from yesterday’s Irish Times shows that the art form is not yet dead.

I knew Claud and his wife Patricia towards the end of his life. They were amazingly kind and hospitable to me when I was a callow undergraduate in Cork. (They lived, in a wonderful kind of rackety splendour, outside Youghal.) When I confided to him that I was thinking of going in for journalism he said: “Just one piece of advice, dear boy: make sure you libel someone famous early in your career!