Friday, 10 July 2009

A brief history of (my) news

I didn't always want to be a journalist.
In fact to tell the truth it never even crossed my mind.
It was only when I saw an ad in my local paper looking for someone who 'wouldn't mind stitching up their friends' I became remotely interested. I started as a three day a week trainee and, over a period of years, progressed from junior to senior to news ed to boss under a series of absolutely brilliant teachers and colleagues (and an even larger number of absolute shitbags!).
We weren't offered NCTJ training at that time mostly due to the fact that virtually no-one in the office had actually taken any official qualifications.
The newspaper company I worked for 'oop North' was relatively small and was one of quite a few independent set ups. Big companies had not yet started hoovering up everything in their sight.
Our grande fromage was a newsman through and through and he reflected that in his attitude to our newspapers.
Readers first, news, leisure, sport second, advertisers third.
An often disgruntled advertiser would pull a paid advertisement following a bad report about his company only to return a few months later because his ads weren't being read anywhere else.
Our papers were hard, investigative, confrontational and often shocking.
But they were a cracking read and every one of us loved them.
We all lived on the patch, we all went out on the patch. Night jobs weren't a chore, they were an excuse for us to arrive en masse and bleed the place dry of stories before hitting the pub.
We spent an inordinately long time in pubs.
I learned how to properly drink AND be a reporter - often writing snatched story tips down using the pub pen and a few sheets of receipt roll or a ripped beermat (I even, on occasions, was forced to use toilet paper).
Our network of contacts in the town we worked stretched across all walks of life.
Cops and solicitors, teachers and council workers, criminals and junkies, we met and befriended them all.
We worked as journalists and we lived as journalists and it was a brilliant time.
Our papers were great because of it - our personal lives and relationships maybe not so much!
We did undercover work, secret filming (before tiny video cameras), blags and stunts.
We forced executives to resign and put crooks in jail and held authority to account at every turn.
The readers loved it. When we mentioned who we worked for, some would make that 'oooooh' breathing-in sound. I kid you not.
(This may sound terribly rose tinted specs and all that and, I admit it mostly is. We also moaned like motherfuckers, put up with terrible management decisions, worked like slaves and were paid like shit. But we really did do some excellent work.)
I miss those days and I try to recreate them as much as I can. I try and have fun with this job as much as I can and let my troops do the same.
I refuse to stop swearing or use the word 'line manager' in the newsroom. I regularly let staff bunk off if they can make up a decent enough excuse. We flog our best stuff and keep the cash a secret.
I don't mind my best workers coming in when they like. And I reward good stories with half days. I hate HR and form filling, so tell them the best part of fuck all about what I do.
I only demand a few things. Bring me the best stories, work hard when you have to, destroy the opposition and don't whine.
But most of all enjoy it.

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