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Take Five: Leo Whitlock

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: Leo Whitlock, pictured left, editor of the Kentish Gazette.

If you would like to take part in the series, email us on editor.htfp@and.co.uk

 

What was your first job in journalism?

Trainee sports reporter on the Waltham Forest Guardian in east London which meant swapping my season ticket seat at Leyton Orient for the press box! The then manager Tommy Taylor was strangely obsessed with my shorthand in post-match interviews.

Who or what inspired you to go into journalism?

My mum was the librarian at the Waltham Forest Guardian in Walthamstow and she helped me arrange work experience when I was 15. I loved it and went back every chance I had – school holidays, during my A levels and during my degree. I finished my finals and started at the paper the very next day. I’m still grateful to everyone who supported me in those early days and everyone since.

What would you rate as your best story, headline or picture?

As a reporter, it was a series of stories about how badly elderly people were being treated at our local hospital. As a news editor it was the story of Antoni Imiela, the M25 rapist. He committed his first attack in Ashford and lived in a village close to the town. We helped capture him after the KM Group put up a £5,000 reward.

As an editor it was our coverage of the earthquake in Folkestone in 2007. It was an early opportunity to properly join up coverage in our free and paid-for newspapers, online and on our kmfm radio stations. We produced a 16-page supplement and sold 86 per cent more papers year on year.

More recently, an elaborate bomb hoax in Canterbury allowed us to add video, Twitter and Facebook to the mix.

Who would you rate as the best journalist you have worked either with or for?

While I never worked for them directly, the journalists that have inspired me the most are Peter Sands and Robin Thompson. I first met them both at the Editorial Centre in Hastings where I trained. Not a day goes by where I don’t call on the skills or the lessons they taught me all those years ago. They were all about working as hard as you can to produce the best possible story or laying out a cracking looking page. Their guiding principle was to always have the readers at the forefront of your mind. They encouraged you to innovate while enjoying every second of being involved in what is a fantastic industry full of talented people.

Apart from your own title, which other newspapers do you most admire?

I hope this doesn’t sound like a politician’s answer. I admire every local and regional newspaper that is managing to survive in what is the most challenging, difficult but exciting time the industry has ever faced.

While it’s hard to get hold of a copy in the wilds of Kent, I have always admired the Northern Echo for the quality of its papers and for the calibre of the journalists and editors it has produced over the years.

From our own stable, the multi-award winning Gravesend and Dartford Messenger, edited by Denise Eaton and now Bob Bounds, has been a must-read and full of ideas that are worth nicking. Infuriatingly, over the years it has pipped the Kentish Gazette at the post at various ceremonies while being news edited by my wife!

When it comes to the nationals, you can’t beat the Sun, the Daily Mail is technically brilliant and people moan about how often I retweet stories from the Guardian.

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  • December 16, 2011 at 12:01 pm
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    I did my training with you at The Editorial Centre and 100% agree with your comments about Peter Sands and Robin Thompson. I always have Robin’s voice in my ear when I write a news story! Glad to hear you are doing well.

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