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In his own words: Paul Durrant on why Training Matters

Three months ago, veteran journalist Paul Durrant, left, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Here he reflects on a career beyond chasing deadlines and tells why good training is still as much part of the editorial kitbag as ever.


As a reporter, news editor and assistant editor of two regional morning and evening titles, I was involved in my fair share of the formative news stories that crossed many a busy newsdesk and shaped the nation over three decades or more.

They were great, rewarding days of buzz, adrenaline and teamwork – but I don’t need to tell that to anyone who’s been in the industry for more than ten minutes.

But I’ve had cause to think more recently about what became a second career for me after I took the King’s Shilling and retired early from the newspaper coalface four or five years ago.

I sort of drifted into journalism training and I can honestly say that those years have been more fulfilling to me professionally than the rest of it put together.

Until my cancer advanced, I’d been mentoring maybe 15 to 20 young reporters at the Eastern Daily Press and East Anglian Daily Times where editors Nigel Pickover and Terry Hunt recognised that there was little time in the hustle and bustle of the modern newsroom for hard pushed seniors to deliver feedback, run copy clinics and look after trainees’ NCTJ editorial logbooks.

These juniors could have seen me as an older duffer with little to offer in a multimedia world where counting the re-tweets and shooting the video so often seem a priority.

But from what they have said to me in a stream of unbelievable messages of support since my illness, they have appreciated my input.

I don’t believe those age old values have had their day, and I’m cheered to know that they don’t either.

My message to up-and-coming young journos is to never forget what you’re really there for, no matter what the platform.

You’re there to challenge, to champion, to campaign for your patch, to probe, to ask the awkward questions and put authority on the spot. Bloody noses? Bring it on.

So try to stay true to those principles whether you’re writing a splash or three par website taster.

And above all, don’t settle for second best.

If in the meantime they can write it with a bit of bounce and accessibility, so much the better.

It’s what journos do. And we’ll stay doing it long after I’m gone.


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  • September 29, 2015 at 9:33 am

    Spot on, Paul. You have maintained high standards.

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  • September 29, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Absolutely right Paul. Sadly not a mantra followed by many these days.

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  • September 29, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    Best News Editor I ever worked for. I learnt so much from you, Paul and took those lessons with me into the Sports Editor roles I was honoured to hold for 16 years after leaving the EDP. Wymondham matters!!!!

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  • September 30, 2015 at 7:43 pm

    I met Paul during my NQJ refreshers a few years back.
    At best I was expecting some easy days off work and some pointers how to pass the upcoming exams, taught by an out of touch journalist/PR type.
    How wrong I was.
    I came away hugely inspired and reinvigorated by Paul’s knowledge and passion, along with plenty of red ink all over my practice papers.
    Those three days have proved invaluable.
    I try to uphold those exacting standards he espoused every day, especially (to paraphrase) his mantra of wanting ‘to see the whites of the knuckles’ in punchy, tightly-written copy.

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  • October 1, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    Paul had the best news sense of any journalist I ever worked for or encountered – an absolutely terrifying man to have as a boss, but unerringly right in his judgement about the quality of a story and its relevance to his readers. I still recall colleagues telling of their failed attempts to pitch stories to him over the phone:

    “Do bitterns buy papers?”
    ” – but, Paul – ”
    “- well, no – ”
    “Spike it.”

    When I later became a chief reporter and news editor myself I often measured a story by thinking ‘what would Paul do with it’? Later still, when I unexpectedly found myself teaching the subject to college students, it was his values as expressed at the end of this piece that I found myself trying to pass on to them.

    You can imagine my surprise (and rush of terror) when I emerged from my classroom one day to find him in the corridor outside. For one awful moment I thought he’d come to put me right on something I’d just taught my class.

    In fact, he was there on NCTJ business – a quieter, more mellow man than he had been, and seemingly genuinely surprised to learn of the influence he’d had on my career. I was very glad to have seen him again.

    I wish him the best, most peaceful, path through what lies ahead.

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  • October 2, 2015 at 9:50 am

    How refreshing for Paul to reflect on what lies ahead for the next generation of journalists when he has his own issues to confront. He was always so helpful and amenable when we met at NCTJ gatherings and has clearly been an inspiration for trainees in East Anglia and beyond. One of the really good guys.

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  • October 16, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    Well said, our Paul. I totally agree with your analysis.

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