Birmingham Mail business editor Jon Griffin, pictured left, has revealed how he managed to upset future Fleet Street columnist Richard Littlejohn within two minutes of beginning his career at the Peterborough Evening Telegraph in June 1975.
Unbeknown to him at the time, Jon had been sat next to the Daily Mail firebrand, who at the time was working on the Telegraph and accidentally cut him off from a phone call he was making, prompting Littlejohn to growl across the newsroom: “”What sort of f***ing people are we taking on these days?”
Self-confessed technophobe Jon described the incident in a farewell piece for the Birmingham Post as a “pretty accurate metaphor” for his ensuing four decades-long career.
The two would later meet again when Jon began working at the Tamworth district office of the Birmingham Evening Mail, where Littlejohn was serving as industrial correspondent at the time.
Jon remained in the West Midlands for the rest of his career, with stints at the Coventry Telegraph and Wolverhampton’s Express and Star being sandwiched by his first and second stints at the Mail.
He wrote: “Forty years have now passed since that calamitous newsroom debut. Littlejohn has achieved fame and fortune, I have ploughed my own furrow in the regions.
“But I never forgot his example – stories were any good reporter’s currency and contacts were the key to that potential treasure trove. They still are, whatever the geeks tell you.”
Jon added: “Regional journalism has given me a way of life like no other. I have rubbed shoulders with Prince Charles, swapped rock anecdotes with Ronnie Wood, tried to prise a response from Bob Dylan (no joy there), struggled to understand Muhammad Ali’s tragically muffled tones down a telephone line from Michigan.
“I have shared reminiscences with Ronnie Kray in Broadmoor (oddly reluctant to discuss his gangster exploits) and been short-changed by ghastly politicians, from the ridiculous John Prescott to the icy Glenda Jackson.”
Jon was named Business and Finance Journalist of the Year at May’s Regional Press Awards having also won the award in 2011. He has also won the Midlands Business Journalist of the Year award nine times.
Mail owner Trinity Mirror recently invited fresh applications for voluntary redundancy as part of its proposal for 19 job losses in Birmingham, and Jon has decided to bow out.
He wrote: “Former supremo Ian Dowell (the best editor I ever worked for) gave me a VIP pass to a never-ending party with the business editor’s job back in 1997.
“But the party is ending. With considerable misgivings, I am taking voluntary redundancy.
“The job has changed and my essentially analogue soul finds itself at odds with the digital world and its trolls, its mob-rule mentality, its platforms for abuse and abusers.
“But the gawky teenager who cut off Richard Littlejohn on his first day in a newsroom could not have complained too much had he known what lay ahead for him on that memorable June day in 1975.”