Dr Daniel Rosenthal

Dr. Daniel Rosenthal is an author, journalist and lecturer. After reading English at Cambridge University he trained for two years as a reporter with the Southern Daily Echo in Southampton. He left the Echo after completing the National Certificate Examination (now the National Qualification in Journalism) and qualifying as a senior reporter in November 1995. He has been a freelance ever since.

He has written on film and theatre for The Times, The Independent, Daily Telegraph and Observer. From 2002–06 he edited the world cinema almanac, International Film Guide. His books include 100 Shakespeare Films (2007) and The National Theatre Story (2013), which won the annual STR Theatre Book Prize, and earned him a doctorate from Cambridge University. Each summer he teaches undergraduate courses – “Film and Theatre Journalism” and “Screen Adaptation: Theory and Practice” – for the Pembroke-King’s Programme, Cambridge.

"Since my late teens, I knew that I wanted to be a journalist. I was chief sub-editor and then editor of Cambridge’s weekly student newspaper, Varsity – roles which, on graduation, helped me secure a traineeship with the Southern Daily Echo in Southampton.

"At my job interview, the Echo’s then editor, Pat Fleming, asked where I saw myself in five years’ time and I answered honestly: back home in London, writing about the subjects that most interested me – film and theatre – for the broadsheets. This was okay, he replied, because part of a regional newspaper’s role was to feed the whole industry. I’ll always be in his debt for hiring someone he knew was unlikely to repay directly, long-term, the training investment made by the Echo’s parent company, Southern Newspapers.

"My first year included block-release sessions of four and six weeks with about a dozen other junior reporters at the Southern training centre in Christchurch, Dorset, where we studied Teeline shorthand, McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists and the other basics of reporting.

"From the Echo newsroom, then still in Southampton city centre, I covered fires; golden weddings; road traffic accidents; council meetings; and tales of cruelty, neglect and violence at magistrates’ and crown courts. I was obliged (occasionally, reluctantly) to door-step the newly bereaved. I learned how to ask the right questions and distil the five Ws – the who, where, what, when and why – of any story into as little as 150 or 250 words, with accuracy and clarity paramount.

"In my second year, promoted by Fleming to education correspondent, I learned how to specialise, spending perhaps half my time covering school and university news, the rest as a general reporter.

"I went freelance in January 1996, aged 25, and my newly acquired NCTJ certificate proved invaluable: a kite-mark of reliability when I cold-called the Times Educational Supplement, which gave me well-paid shifts as a reporter and feature writer.

"At the TES, and in the freelance commissions (genre features, interviews with actors, directors and writers) which I gradually secured from national broadsheet arts editors, I relished the greater wordage, and stylistic freedom, that had been off-limits in Southampton. But the news-gathering principles were identical, and without the skills – to say nothing of a much-broadened view of life – that I’d acquired at the Echo, I’d have felt hopelessly under-qualified (and earned a lot less).

"To write my history of the National Theatre – a nine-year labour of love that finally yielded an 850-page hardback – I had to teach myself to become a historian, but, while poring over 1960s board papers in the National Theatre archive, or interviewing Tom Stoppard, I never stopped being a reporter.

"Nearly 20 years after I left the Echo, the landscape for arts journalism has changed radically, but I still focus on the five Ws, am still determined to ask the right questions of the right people, and to write as accessibly and engagingly as possible for a general readership."