Each week HTFP asks a leading regional press figure five set questions about their career – including how it started, their best story or headline, and which other journalists and publications they most admire.
This week: Alison Gow, pictured left, editor of Wales Online and Wales on Sunday.
What was your first job in journalism?
Junior reporter on the Tenby Observer, owned by Tindle, for a 12 month period. I either knew or was related to just about everyone in Tenby… so I got the Narberth and Whitland patch to cover, where I knew no one.
I was given a typewriter and camera and unleashed on an unsuspecting world with a salary of £30 a week. Editor Neil Dickenson and then-chief reporter Andrew Davies were endlessly helpful and patient, especially when I forgot to put film in the camera.
I learned lots (most the hard way) and had a right laugh. At the end of 12 months I was offered a permanent position, but the offer of an NCTJ traineeship on the rival Western Telegraph was too tempting.
Who or what inspired you to go into journalism?
Nick Clegg might not like it but the truth is I got my break in journalism because my mother worked for the Tenby Observer as an ad designer and, as I had A levels but no desire for further education, she Had A Word with the editor. As he’d known me since I was a small child it was probably a tricky situation for him…
So I didn’t go into it as a calling but from the first time I saw my name in print (on a book review) I was hooked.
What would you rate as your best story, headline or picture?
That’s a hard question! From my news editing days, breaking the story that the racist murderers of Liverpool teenager Anthony Walker had fled to Amsterdam – while police denied everything, insisting airports and ferries were locked down – was a rush. The front page went out and all day we were monstered by and later that evening we photographed police officers leading the pair, in handcuffs, off a KLM plane which had touched down in Liverpool from Amsterdam.
The best headline isn’t mine – it was written by the Echo’s then assistant editor Rob Irvine, about Yoko Ono hanging photos of people’s nether regions from lampposts in Liverpool’s main street. Rob wrote: ‘Above Us Only Thighs’ and it still makes me laugh today.
Who would you rate as the best journalist you have worked either with or for?
I’ve worked with many fine journalists, who were generous with their time and advice, so it’s hard to pick just one. But the reporter who taught me most about being a good community hack, and knowing and respecting your audience, (and who put up with my almost daily faux pas) was the late Vernon Scott, of the Western Telegraph. He knew everyone and everything, had more great anecdotes than one life should reasonably hold, and continued to advise me long after I’d moved on to daily papers. I miss him very much.
Apart from your own title, which regional or national newspaper do you most admire and why?
They’re online, of course. In the UK it has to be monster that is MailOnline.co.uk – fantastically well done and compelling, However, my daily inspiration is the Register Citizen, in Torrington, CT, and, specifically, its Open Newsroom Project. If I can achieve something even half as open and collaborative then I’ll be happy