University College School pupil resurrects school magazine edited by Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre as a teenager

UCS student Danny Wittenberg with an old copy of Compass school magazine. Picture: Polly Hancock.

UCS student Danny Wittenberg with an old copy of Compass school magazine. Picture: Polly Hancock. - Credit: Archant

Half a century ago a teenager who would go onto become one of Britain’s most notable newspaper editors tried his hand at editing a satirical student magazine exploring life at University College School (UCS).

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre. Picture: PA Archive/Stefan Rousseau.

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre. Picture: PA Archive/Stefan Rousseau. - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

The magazine was entitled Compass and its editor for a time in the 1960s was Paul Dacre, now the Daily Mail’s editor for more than 20 years, who attended the prestigious independent school, in Frognal, Hampstead, between 1960 and 1966.

In the early 1990s the magazine was wound up, but now a new generation of inspired journalistic minds are resurrecting the Compass spirit and breathing new life into the historic periodical.

Editing the new title, which will now be known as The Compass, is 16-year-old Daniel Wittenberg, an aspiring journalist who has already seen a number of his articles published in the Ham&High, including an exclusive story based on an interview with former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell earlier this month.

The Year 11 UCS pupil, set to sit his GCSEs next year, said: “My friends and I had the idea of starting a newspaper-based project before we even knew about Compass. And then we became aware of Compass which was more of a Private Eye-type publication.

“Ours isn’t going to be like that, but we thought we’d like to keep the name. We thought The Compass would be a nice way of bringing the school’s heritage into a modern era, centred around online blogs and social media.”

Over the summer, Daniel and his team, including news, features, comment, culture and sports editors, set up The Compass blog and the title also has an official Twitter and Facebook account.

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The Compass is already publishing articles from students on its blog and is set to roll out “tester” newspaper sheets in the near future to gauge demand for a regular print publication.

“We are happy to publish anything people are interested in writing about and things people are interested in reading about,” said Daniel. “So it doesn’t have to be related to school.

“We are a liberal school, so we thought we’d do a liberal paper, but not in a political sense. I don’t think we want to be restrictive in what people can write about.”

Daniel, who counts veteran broadcaster Jon Snow as one of his mentors and recently interviewed former UCS pupil and now Times executive editor Danny Finkelstein, said The Compass would steer clear of sensationalism and titillation. “We are not going to be like one of the newspapers that have a bit of a bad name at the moment,” he said.

“We are much more into community journalism – giving people a chance to talk about the things they like and the clubs and societies they run.”

But he insisted the “community journalism” philosophy would not stop The Compass from criticising the school if the situation demanded it.

“We don’t want to be holding the school to account, but we are happy for people to have critical views of the school,” said Daniel.

“If we come across a really good story which is critical of the school, we will run it.

“We are not subject to any kind of censorship. Maybe we could find some scoops for the Ham&High!”

Asked whether he hoped his first editorship would set him on a path to the top of the newspaper industry, similar to the strides made by Mr Dacre after leaving UCS, Daniel’s view is measured and mature beyond his years.

“It would be a dream to have the level of success that Paul Dacre has had in newspapers,” he said. “He’s clearly got to the top of his career ladder and fulfilled his goals as a journalist.”

For more information about The Compass, visit