The clatter of old-fashioned typewriters is being piped through the Times newsroom. Photo: Getty
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The Times is playing typewriter sounds in its newsroom to motivate its journalists

Tapping into history.

Visitors to the Times’ new London Bridge offices could be forgiven for believing that along with its move, the Murdoch broadsheet has ditched its digital strategy in favour of a more traditional approach to newsgathering: tapping out copy on manual typewriters.

But they’d be wrong. The publication, at the behest of its editor, is having the tapping noise of old-fashioned typewriters piped into its newsroom every now and again through a big speaker.

The retro clatter is intended to boost the energy of Times journalists as they type, therefore motivating them to hit their deadlines. The noise starts off soft and slow and then apparently builds to a crescendo of typing, apparently in a trial to see if it will help reporters work faster.

The paper’s diary editor Patrick Kidd told the BBC’s Today programme this morning that the noise was unexpected: “suddenly it was playing in the background over loudspeakers… [it’s our] editor’s wish to pay respect to our history.”

He said at first he found this “nod to our history” to be “mildly irritating” but now finds it “soothing” and on a busy day found himself typing in rhythm to the sounds.

Kidd also expressed his hope that the clatter of old typewriters might signal a return of the “stale smell of cigarette smoke” and the “three-bottle lunch”.

I'm a mole, innit.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.