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‘UK’s oldest working journalist’ celebrates 70 years covering the news

An 88-year-old journalist who is still working has marked seven decades covering the news.

Tony James, who freelances for the West Somerset Free Press, has celebrated the milestone following a career in which he counted the Kray twins as contacts, rode in a car with a gun-toting Prime Minister and ghosted columns for famous celebrities.

Tony, pictured, attempted to retire last summer after eight years with the Free Press, but returned to work a week later.

Publisher Tindle Newspapers has now claimed he may be “possibly the UK’s oldest working journalist”.

Tony James

Tony said: “I like journalism. I like turning in good work and doing a good job. I will do it until it’s done, and I can’t do it half-way.”

“Journalism is a very odd thing. It’s a compulsion to do it, to do it well and to put out stories that people aren’t going to know about.

“We do try and reveal things that are in the public interest and we try and do it well.

“At the moment, there is no reason for me to stop. I can see, walk about, speak to people and hear. One day I am going to have to say that is enough, but I will just go on as I am. I’m a sort of fossil left from an extinct species.”

Tony began his career on his hometown newspaper the Derby Telegraph aged 18, serving as agricultural correspondent after the editor decided that he was qualified for the job because a pair of Wellington boots that were in the newsroom fit him.

After five years, he moved to the East London Advertiser as a reporter, where he came to know the Krays.

Tony later moved to Canada and worked for the Montreal Star, before going to Jamaica, where he was crime, education, and Parliamentary correspondent on the Jamaican Gleaner.

He covered the Independence riots in Jamaica’s capital Kingston in the 1960s when the then-Prime Minister toted two pearl-handled revolvers.

After returning to England, Tony worked for the Press Association as deputy editor of its special reporting service before moving to Reuters as deputy news editor of the UK desk.

He co-founded Features International, which became Fleet Street’s largest independent syndication agency, and pioneered sportsmen’s ghosted newspaper columns with a client list which included George Best, Denis Law, Billy Bremner, Colin Cowdrey, Henry Cooper, Jack Nicklaus, and Stirling Moss, as well as ghosting Lulu’s first autobiography.

Over the years, Tony has worked for more than 40 publications worldwide, including newspapers and magazines in Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Scandinavia, South Africa, Australia, Kenya, Canada, Ireland, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

He estimates he has written more than 40 million words during his career.

Emily Woolfe, editorial director at Tindle Newspapers, said: “Tony epitomises the core values of the late Sir Ray Tindle, who founded our group of newspapers embedded in and serving local communities all over the country just like those in West Somerset.

“Our strength is built on the trust local people, our readers, have in us to impartially report the local news which is important to them and their neighbours.

“We care deeply about the towns and villages our independent newspapers serve and I know that nobody cares more or is held in greater regard, than Tony James.

“I am extremely proud that Tony has chosen to give Tindle Newspapers and Free Press readers the benefit of the skills and knowledge he has acquired throughout an amazing lifetime in journalism all over the globe.”