A sacked former editor has written a frank autobiography telling how he was not up to the job of running a regional daily newspaper.
Richard Harris, 62, became editor of the evening News & Star in Carlisle and its sister weekly the Cumberland News after 17 years on the Nottingham Evening Post, but was sacked in 1993.
Said Richard: “I quickly discovered I wasn’t up to being editor and, no surprise, three and a half years later they sacked me.”
Before being able to publish The Accidental Editor he wrote to CN Group managing director Robin Burgess, the man who had fired him, asking him to lift a confidentiality clause so he could write about his dismissal. Mr Burgess wrote back in October and gave him the go ahead.
Richard told HTFP: “Lots of ex editors write their memoirs but mine is a little bit different, I think, because it ends in the sort of failure that a lot of us prefer not to talk about.
“And it’s also a bit different because I’d never wanted to be a journalist until I was one – which is probably one of the reasons being sacked did not hurt too much.”
The Accidental Editor, tells how, as a shy and naive 18-year-old, Richard joined the weekly Weston-super-Mare Mercury in his native Somerset only because it seemed a slightly better bet than shovelling horse manure on a mushroom farm, which was his introduction to working life.
He intended only to spend a few months working there until he found something he thought he would enjoy more, but almost immediately realised that journalism was the job he was cut out for.
After a spell under editor Eric Price on the Western Daily Press in Bristol he moved as a features sub to the Evening Post in Nottingham.
Richard said the book tells what it was really like working for the often reviled managing director Christopher Pole Carew , and explains how he achieved such extraordinary loyalty from his staff.
He admits that his career was stagnating until the arrival of editor Barrie Williams who, after spotting in him a talent that had not previously been noticed, gave him a succession of increasingly high-profile jobs which later enabled him to become an editor himself.
During his career Richard covered the Coldharbour hospital tragedy which saw 30 mental health patients die in a fire, the Hillsborough disaster and the miners’ strike.
The Accidental Editor, which he wrote it when his first grandchild was born as something to remember him by, is available from theaccidentaleditor.com.
It is ultimately a story of how, after getting the top job in Carlisle, he discovered he wasn’t really cut out to be an editor at all.
Richard, who said his sacking was unexpected but not surprising as he didn’t think he was the best manager, now works as a freelance journalist in Carlisle mainly covering crown court.
He added: “I never wanted to be a journalist but have loved every minute of it.”