Looking Back at Palatinate with Tim Alden

By Charlotte Grimwade, Cameron Beech &

To celebrate Palatinate’s 75th anniversary, our Indigo Editors sat down to talk to Tim Alden, previously the editor of Palatinate and now art director at the i . Tim graduated Durham University in 1981 having studied English Literature, and has since had an impressive career working for many of the best-known national newspapers both as a journalist and art director.

Tim started working for Palatinate in his second year at Durham, becoming editor in 1980, a job which he still remembers very clearly. Talking to Tim, it is clear how much has changed in the last 40 years at Palatinate and in press in general. From the the size of the team to the creative process to distribution, changes in technology have made a huge difference to running a paper. “You would design the whole newspaper by manually, typing out our stories, cutting them up and then gluing them down.”

When it came to the visuals for the newspaper, there were no digital cameras or stock images, so Tim took a lot of the photos for the paper. “The dark room was two or three streets away from the office and I’d regularly find myself walking the streets of Durham at 3am with freshly produced set of prints to go in the paper.” 

While rushing to meet deadlines is certainly still a familiar feeling to most students, we have the luxury of being able to do most things from behind our computer, sending our emails and documents wherever we need at the click of a button. Meanwhile, as Tim recalls, in 1980 getting the paper to the printers was somewhat more involved. 

“The student union had a really beaten-up Cortina Estate, and I was the only person at Palatinate insured to use it. Before printing, at the last minute, we would get all 24 pages together, sling them in the back seat of this blue Ford Cortina. To this day I remember driving down the motorway, having to constantly adjust the steering to not leave the lane because the steering was so loose on the car.”

When discussing the stories Tim worked on at Palatinate, the scoop Tim remembers the most was discovered largely by luck. “The Palatinate office used to be on the top floor of the Dunelm building and look out over the prison. When working out of hours, we noticed a bunch of people sitting on the roof of the prison. We ended up getting a national scoop on this massive prison protest. And being such a high-profile prison at the time the press was very interested. So, we ended up kicking off a national story which was pretty cool.”

We ended up kicking off a national story 

Working for Palatinate and in his position as editor – a role he won by a single vote – has had a lasting impact on Tim and his career. 

Ideas born at Palatinate later inspired larger creations. “We introduced a new section called ‘Durham Types’ which was run by John Cummings. Every week he would pick a classic student type – the rugby player, the trendy, the druggie, and he would write a spoof based upon somebody that we probably all knew.”

“Then 10 years later, I was working for the Telegraph Saturday Magazine, and we launched a really similar thing called Social Stereotypes which became a massive hit, which I think indirectly translated from what we had done at Palatinate. It’s interesting how things you try out at university actually sometimes do actually work.”

Tim left Durham in the midst of a recession. “There were 3 million unemployed and the moment you stepped out of the Durham bubble, the reality of the situation was completely obvious. It was grim and it was hard finding a job. I found that the only thing I was equipped for was being a journalist.”

After a job at a Welsh local newspaper, Tim went down to London without a job. “Just by sheer chance, I managed to get myself a job on a fashion trade magazine where I got very involved with the visual side of producing a magazine. After going freelance, I mostly got jobs a designer. And then the Telegraph offered me a job. And I have followed the design path since’9k

The great joy of journalism is getting to meet fascinating people and go to interesting places

When asked about journalism as a career, Tim is clear that it is not a job you get into for money. “There aren’t very many wealthy journalists. But that’s not why people do it – you do it for the variety of the job. The great joy of journalism is getting to meet fascinating people and go to interesting places”. Even as the industry changes and more and more moves online, getting to meet people and hear their stories remains a constant, even if those stories are told over zoom and published online. 

Photography by: Tim Alden

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