Each week HoldtheFrontPage will be asking 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.
What was your first job in journalism?
Strictly speaking my first job was to be the co-editor of my youth club magazine with the imaginative title Plug. Over and above that, however, I became a junior reporter of my home town newspaper, the Tamworth Herald, in July 1983.
Who or what inspired you to go into journalism?
I can’t remember any single person or event that made me decide to go into the career. However, like many journalists I don’t have a tremendous amount of practical skills but I always knew I enjoyed writing and I was a little bit nosey so when I put these factors together journalism seemed ideal. In addition as someone who has always loved music, sport and politics I thought it would be lovely to be paid to tell the world about my obviously very interesting views on all these issues. But then, sadly, they told me I had to be unbiased. What a let down…
What would you rate as your best story, headline or picture?
I can immediately think of a lot of cracking news and indeed sports stories that I’ve been involved with over the years either as a reporter or latterly as an editor. These obviously gave me a lot of professional pride but to be honest I regard some of the major campaigns or community-led initiatives I’ve been involved with in the same high regard. I’ve always believed that newspapers should be there to reflect the cheers as well as the tears in the community and so I get just as much excitement from dealing with stories that really help promote and enthuse a local community as the ones that have a very dramatic impact on them.
Who would you rate as the best journalist you have worked either with or for?
That’s impossible to answer I’m afraid as I think most journalists take little bits of everyone they see and then try and weld them into the type of a reporter you want to be. I don’t, therefore, have any great journalistic heroes but there have been many people who I’ve admired from my very earliest days as a cub reporter (when I looked up to my then sports editor Richard Whitehead who is now at The Times) right through to today when I’m just so excited at the quality of staff I have working alongside me in Bath. I think the standard of journalism and journalists that I’ve encountered have been incredibly high and I hope that some of their talent and enthusiasm has rubbed off on me. The truth is all good editors know that you are only as good as the staff who works for you. Those guys really win the awards – I just smile and collect them.
Apart from your own title, which regional or national newspaper do you most admire and why?
I have been a fan of the Independent in its various guises for a number of years and although it annoys me sometimes (I think it enjoys doing that to its readers) I feel quite attached to it. I’m particularly impressed with the new ‘I’ which seems to me to cross the gap between Metro and the more heavyweight papers very nicely. It reminds me very much of Today which I always thought was a very underrated newspaper. Regionally I’m a fan of virtually every local newspaper I pick up and there’s hardly a single one that I read that I’m not able to think ‘we could nick that’ which is a sign that we’re thankfully not all the same. I will always however have a very soft spot for my first ever newspaper, the Tamworth Herald which is in very good hands at the moment under the excellent stewardship of editor Gary Phelps and his team.