Comment: An old-school journalist who will be missed

Britain's favourite fresh produce magazine since 1895
Chris White

BY CHRIS WHITE

@chrisfruitnet

Comment: An old-school journalist who will be missed

FPJ managing director Chris White fondly remembers David Shapley, who passed away this weekend at the age of 77

Comment: An old-school journalist who will be missed

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Onwards and upwards…

There can’t have been many conversations that David Shapley didn’t end with those words. They were typical of the man, who was always full of life’s enthusiasms, and who lived a long life fully and enthusiastically.

David worked for the FPJ for some 30 years, introduced into the business by his father, who wrote under the name of Bill Sandford. David was a chip off the old block, easily finding his way as a journalist because the job made full use of the skills that came most naturally to him: an ability to get on easily with other people, an enquiring mind that was interested in any number of things, and the nose for a good story.

David learned his trade at the Fruit Trades Journal’s old offices just off Fleet Street, close to all the action at Covent Garden. When the magazine transferred with the market to its new premises south of the river in 1973, David set himself up in a small office on the fourth floor of Market Towers, and then edited the magazine when the trade in Britain was in its heyday, the time when the markets did a roaring trade and the supermarkets really had to fight hard to win market share. Rarely without a pipe in his mouth and his beaten-up old briefcase in his right hand, David Shapley was in his element.

No surprise that his office was rarely occupied. David was out much of the time, meeting the trade at home and abroad, and coming back every so often to hammer out an article with fingers that had learned their trade on a typewriter. With his desk facing the office door and his small computer screen set against the wall, a breathtaking view of the Thames to his right, David would write with great energy and insight about the fresh fruit and vegetable trade that he knew so well and loved so deeply.

David’s journalism was of the pre-digital age, the time before email and the internet when you got your story by getting out and meeting people. They are the skills he taught younger journalists like me, and which we’re sometimes in danger of forgetting today as we huddle behind our screens to check news feeds.

David was a journalist of the old school, asking questions, taking notes on any scrap of paper he could find – he had very elegant handwriting – and filing his copy on time, even if he’d often test the patience of his sub-editors.

David travelled all over the world for this magazine and was the face of it for many years. He returned to the Fresh Produce Journal a decade or so after he’d left it, now submitting shorter pieces about new and exciting things he’d seen at supermarkets close to his home. For him, the story could be thousands of miles away or just up the road. David discussed retirement with us on many occasions, but the conversation never went very far because we all knew he’d never give up work. He wasn’t that kind of man.  Onwards and upwards indeed.

Click here for a full obituary

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