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Forty years on The Citizen. It sounds like a life sentence with no remission. During those years I have been:
I have been elated, frustrated, horrified, ashamed, proud, angry and delighted. What keeps me in this job is that I have never, ever been bored.
The hook of this craft is not knowing what each day will bring. The chance that any moment something will happen, which is either so serious, or so absurd, that it will warrant explaining to 120,000 loyal readers.
There is no doubt in my mind that the biggest news story of the last forty years was the Fred and Rosemary West house of horrors in Cromwell Street. At least 12 young women tortured and murdered in the most horrific circumstances.
A dubious distinction for Gloucester, but one that needed to be interpreted and explained to the whole world.
The Citizen newsroom was full of other journalists and TV camera crews from all over the world, watching us unfolding the story. It was part of my job, in those extraordinary days, to explain to viewers in Japan, Italy, Spain, Germany and even Russia, what was going on and why. I often wonder how it came out in translation.
One of the first radio stations to ring up on the day the story broke, announced themselves as Drive Time Radio of San Antonio, Texas.
Cynic that I am, I was convinced it was a colleague of mine at the other end of the office playing a sick joke. It was only when the commercials came on that it dawned I was actually talking live to the people of Texas.
The Wests story was one of the few occasions when that much overworked adjective “sensational” can be properly applied. But there were others in that extraordinary vein – all about the same time.
So, within a few months of each other, we had the Bishop of Gloucester sacked over allegations of sexual impropriety with novice monks, the rampaging killer bugs “necrotising faciitis” eating people alive at the hospital, and a nurse from Gloucester accused elsewhere of killing one of her patients.
The big stories often come in bunches. Way back in the early 1960s there was an amazing combination of political scandal, business sleaze and accident horror which kept us scribbling for weeks.
Miss Gloucester, the local beauty queen, was pregnant and the father the Labour Mayor of Gloucester, a Conservative councillor had loudly proclaimed in the bar of a local club. It was completely untrue, the Mayor sued for libel and won, and the hearing kept the people of Gloucester amused for days.
At about the same time a major scandal rocked the city when it was discovered people had taken mortgages the council, and no-one noticed when they didn’t pay them back. More hours of covering meetings in the Guildhall cumulated in the resignation of the City Treasurer.