Engel, Matthew (Lewis) 1951-

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ENGEL, Matthew (Lewis) 1951-

PERSONAL: Born June 11, 1951, in Northampton, England; son of Max David (a lawyer) and Betty Ruth (a homemaker; maiden name, Lesser) Engel; married Hilary Davies (a publisher), October 27, 1990; children: Laurence Gabriel, Victoria Betty. Education: Victoria University of Manchester, B.A. (with honors), 1972.

ADDRESSES: Home—Fair Oak, near Bacton, Herefordshire HR2 OAT, England. Office—Guardian, 119 Farringdon Rd., London EC1R 3ER, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER: Northampton Chronicle and Echo, Northampton, England, journalist, 1972-75; Reuters News Agency, journalist, 1977-79; Guardian, London, England, feature writer, 1979—, cricket correspondent, 1982-87, sports columnist and occasional political, foreign, and war correspondent, 1987-2001; columnist, 1998—; Washington correspondent, 2001-2003.

AWARDS, HONORS: Named sports journalist of the year by What the Papers Say, 1985, and by British Press Awards, 1991; runner-up, reporter of the year, 1997.

WRITINGS:

Ashes '85, Pelham Books (London, England), 1986.

The Guardian Book of Cricket, Pavilion Books (London, England), 1986.

Tickle the Public: One Hundred Years of the Popular Press, Gollancz (London, England), 1996.

(Editor) The Bedside Years: The Best Writing from the Guardian, 1951-2000, Atlantic Books (London, England), 2001.

Editor, Sportspages Almanac, Simon & Schuster, 1989-91, and Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, John Wisden, 1992-2000, 2004—. Engel's humorous column "Engel in America" for the Guardian Unlimited reports on the U.S. sports scene from Washington, D.C., 2001—.

SIDELIGHTS: "Even the most cynical hacks are usually sentimental souls at heart," wrote Francis Wheen in a 1996 Observer article, "and Matthew Engel is no exception." A sports and feature writer in England, Engel has, "for some years . . . been one of the most consistently readable performers in journalism," according to Spectator writer Alan Watkins. "He is an ornament to the profession." Engel looked back on the British newspaper industry with Tickle the Public: One Hundred Years of the Popular Press. The author examines what Boyd Tonkin called "every dominant title" among the British papers, including the venerated Times, plus its competitors the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express, the Daily Mirror, and the Sun. Tonkin, writing for New Statesman & Society, added that the book ends with the Sun "soaring away into scandal and TV gossip."

The history of Fleet Street is a colorful one, characterized by what Wheen described as the "late-night thunder of the presses and the hubbub in the pubs." "One of the interesting points [Engel] makes about the 19th century is that literacy was more common in the earlier half than we had been led to believe," commented Watkins. But for all the romance that seems to have gone the way of the cell phone and the Internet, Engel resists "the conclusion that the mass-circulation newspapers of the past were somehow nobler or more imaginative than their modern counterparts," said Wheen. "If anything, he errs in the other direction, by arguing that popular journalism is an endlessly recurring cycle." Watkins thought Engel was mistaken in writing that the "shabby" journalistic practices that began in the 1980s—such as the Sun's "simply inventing stories"—were "always part of popular journalism. This may be because [the author] has himself been a national journalist only since 1979." But overall, Watkins praised Tickle the Public as "possibly the best and certainly the most entertaining account of British newspapers since Francis Williams' Dangerous Estate."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Books, June, 1996, review of Tickle the Public: One Hundred Years of the Popular Press, p. 21.

London Review of Books, July 18, 1996, review of Tickle the Public, p. 13.

New Statesman, April 26, 1999, p. 46; January 28, 2002, Richard Gott, "The Lost Magic of Manchester," p. 49.

New Statesman & Society, May 3, 1996, Boyd Tonkin, review of Tickle the Public, p. 41.

Observer (London, England), April 28, 1996, Francis Wheen, "Yesterday's News," p. 15.

Spectator (London, England), May 18, 1996, Alan Watkins, "Goodness Had Little to Do with It," p. 38.

Times Educational Supplement, December 27, 1996, review of Tickle the Public, p.16.

Times Literary Supplement, July 26, 1996, Michael Davie, review of Tickle the Public, p. 27; February 15, 2002, review of The Bedside Years: The Best Writing from the Guardian, 1951-2000, p. 31.