Chancellor, a talented, self-trained trainee
Sunday 29 January 2017
A few Reuters graduate trainees are born journalists, some are made, and many have the news agency style thrust upon them. Arriving in the early 1960s, Alexander Chancellor was clearly in the first group, with a supercharged talent, partly reflecting a family connection with Reuters and privileged education.
We met in the old London Bureau as it was moved away from the Reuters machine, then to outlying Gotch House. As one of his mentors, I sent him to interview American draft-dodgers, objectors to the Vietnam War taking refuge in London. Without any fuss, he produced a competent story that obviated any supervision - evidently a trainee who had somehow trained himself!
He got on well with people, but along with that dishevelled appearance, ready charm and ever-present cigarette, he was pretty sharp and far from an open book. "And are you happy?" I once asked him when Spectator editor. He gave a customary quizzical smile. "Oh, I wouldn't go quite as far as that…"
Years later he wrote a critical appraisal of the decision to make Reuters a commercial outfit including a shares bonanza that enriched top executives.
Despite his "Long Life" Spectator column and editorship of Oldie magazine, I shall always recall him as a young man going places and producing, or inspiring, copy with an ever-youthful spirit. He was a decoration to journalism and to Reuters, the foundation stone of an illustrious career. ■