John DaleJohn Dale says cheers to Lunchtime O'Booze

Lunchtime O’Booze, the legendary hard-drinking newspaper reporter, is a hero as well as a villain and should have a statue erected to his honour, Fleet Street veteran John Dale told journalism students at a special guest lecture in Sheffield.

Mr Dale, who edited the top selling magazine Take A Break’ for 20 years, said there was more than a hint of truth in the hilarious caricature who makes regular appearances in the pages of Private Eye.

He said: “Lunchtime O’Booze would have a bottle in his pocket and fag ash down his tie and shirt front. There were hundreds of them, not just in London but in cities like Sheffield and Leeds too.

“They drank too much and smoked too much, but they always got the story. They should erect a statue of him in Fleet Street - not in a proper place, but half in the gutter to cause disruption to the traffic.”

Hopelessly drunk

Mr Dale told of his time at the Daily Mail as an assistant to the chief reporter who would regularly ply contacts with drink during investigations into council corruption.

“They would get hopelessly drunk and tell us what we wanted to know. The problem was the chief reporter would get as drunk as they were. It was my job to stay sober enough to remember what we had been told the next day.”

He started his career at the Lincolnshire Times before moving on to the Daily Mail, Observer and Now magazine. He now freelances after stepping down from Take a Break last year.

Leveson enquiry

He has taken a particular interest in the Leveson inquiry and said it was a good thing that journalistic practices that were often “close to the edge” were coming under proper scrutiny.

He has written about the inquiry extensively at his blog here.

And his advice to young reporters on work experience? Make the tea!

“Making the tea shows you are prepared to be subservient for a time and that you think as part of the team. Make the tea and you’ll get the job.”

Mr Dale appeared as part of a series of guest lectures organised by the Department of Journalism Studies.