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.
If you would like to take part in the series, email us on email@example.com
What was your first job in journalism?
I started out as a trainee at the Halifax Evening Courier, in July 1999. It was my home-town paper and I had a great time there. We had a really good team at the time – a mix of older reporters who knew the patch inside out and a new intake of trainees who were all desperate to impress. After a couple of weeks the deputy editor, John Kenealy, took us trainees to one side and said we shouldn’t be working long hours unless something serious happened. We got back upstairs to be told two bodies had been found in a house, and another man was seriously injured. I was sent out on the story with another new trainee, Kevin Peachey, and we stayed out on it until midnight. The next day I got a mild rollocking for (unwittingly) impersonating a police officer while I was out there – but we got the full story!
Who or what inspired you to go into journalism?
I was a paper boy delivering the Courier, and I used to read it cover to cover on my round. I was lucky – I always knew what I wanted to do and the right jobs always seemed to came up at the right time. Halifax was a big rugby league town in the 1980s and I used to think the Halifax RLFC reporter had the best job in the town.
What would you rate as your best story, headline or picture?
After moving to the Nottingham Evening Post in 2002, the city gained all the wrong headlines for gun and gang crime. Murders seemed to be happening every other week – and I’m not just talking your average drug-related murder. I covered many murders which gained international headlines, and it was a fantastic job to be in. I worked on most of the big cases with Guy Woodford and Stevie Roden, and we relished beating the nationals on all the major stories – even though the nationals had reporters in the area non-stop for 18 months.
But one of the stories that really sticks out was going to Ukraine for a week, to unite a pensioner with the family he last saw in 1943. As a youth he had been marched out of his village, before ending up in a concentration camp. He ended up in England and was told his family had been killed. But in 2003 his son-in-law tracked the family down to a tiny farmhouse in a really backward part of Ukraine. We helped rush his passport application, and then paid for flights for him and his family. I went along, with a photographer, and we didn’t see anyone else who spoke English for the whole week. It was a fantastic trip, and the old guy spent the entire trip crying happy tears.
Who would you rate as the best journalist you have worked either with or for?
There are two who stick out. Brian Coates, at the Halifax Courier, is your ideal local journalist. He knows everything that’s going on in his patch. He can go out for a beer and half a dozen people will approach him with stories. He seemed to know everything and everyone, and that hasn’t changed since I moved on. Every trainee should spend a week with Brian to see how the job should be done.
I have known a lot of good journalists at the Nottingham Post, but Graeme Paton stands out. He was education correspondent when I got there and he had the front page splash twice a week, without fail. He had a great news sense, brilliant contacts and was so, so passionate about the job. It was no surprise when he landed a great job as the Daily Telegraph’s Education Editor, and is one of the most diligent journalists I have met.
Apart from your own title, which other newspapers do you most admire?
Working in the East Midlands, I see a lot of the Derby Telegraph, and I think that is a cracking paper. They have a great mix of hard news and campaigns. And I have always enjoyed picking up the Yorkshire Evening Post when I’m back up north.