Do you miss journalism?

Preparing for a flight in a Tiger Moth in my journalism days
Preparing for a flight in a Tiger Moth in my journalism days

It’s been a great weekend for catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. And it just so happened that most of us were in that noble, yet much maligned profession of journalism.

Being of A Certain Age, we agreed that young ‘uns these days didn’t have that hungriness of a hardened hack, trained on the job. For us, cutting and pasting was what we did on a weekend with wallpaper and un-decorated rooms. There were no computers, no mobile phones and the only way to get the story was catch the number 62 bus to Dewsbury where all news happened.

There were none of those fancy media study degrees, we signed indentures, making us real apprentices, tied to our employers for three years or so until we attained our National Council for the Training of Journalists Proficiency Certificate. Researching and writing stories was an art, which started and finished each day as deadlines came and went.

It was exciting and frustrating at the same time. We had egos that need to be massaged by seeing our names next to the stories we had so cleverly written. The by-lines were at the whim of the sub editors and many a moan was had over a lunchtime pint in the pub after the first edition hit the streets.

Best of all were the adventures we could have, just because we knew we could write about them. One of my favourites was a trip in a Tiger Moth, restored by an enthusiast who was prepared to take me as a passenger. Oh my goodness I thought I was going to die when the fabric and wood plane bumpety bumped across the airfield before finally taking off, the propeller rattling so hard I thought my ribs were going to shatter. I didn’t open my eyes until we were airborne and then.. and then? Well. it was worth all the rubbishy little jobs I had to do as a trainee reporter to enjoy such an experience and have the privilege of writing about it. Do I miss journalism? You bet I do. Would I go back? Naw……

Medals from a Paralympian champion

Swapping journalism stories with Rowina on the home run. Photo copyright Andrew Thrippleton
Swapping journalism stories with Rowena on the home run. Photo copyright Andrew Thrippleton

There’s that tipping point when foot hits rut and the horizon tilts past 45 degrees that ground contact with legs, arms and running number becomes inevitable. Yesterday, I tipped that point.

People tell me I have a loud voice, I just think it was the echo across the valley spanning Marsden Moor, but the runner in front heard and came back to help. I wasn’t hurt, just a little winded and now sporting a rather fetching peaty stripe down one side and the beginnings of what promised to be massive bruises on my thigh, calf, arm and shoulder….

It turned out I had a lot in common with my running companion, Rowena, for she too trained as a journalist. As we headed downhill for the last three miles of the Marsden Ten Mile Challenge, we swapped stories of how we had to go out and hunt for stories, none of this cut-and-paste find-it-on-the-internet stuff, we found our stories and damned good they were too. Proper investigative stuff requiring lots of legwork.

I was most thankful for her company, a fellow runner, a fellow hack, someone to enjoy the scenery with and someone to take my mind off the throbbing bruises. We crossed the line together to be met by a familiar face from my long-ago journalism days handing out the medals.

Paul Cartwright had been a regular feature in my reporter’s notebook in my days at the Batley News. A national and international wheelchair racing champion throughout the 1980s at a time when the Paralympics weren’t really on the radar of the sports-watching public. I certainly recognised him, he’d gone on to win medals and represent his country many times and is still active as a power lifter. He was handing out the medals in his role as Ambassador for the Hollybank School in Mirfield, which caters for children and young people with special and complex needs and was the chosen charity for the run I’d just fallen over in.

A lovely end to an eventful day, all that remained was to fall over again for the group photo with my team mates from Eccleshill Road Runners, thank the marshalls from Colne Valley Lions, help polish off the home-made cornish pasties laid on for the runners and return home to blog about it.

Shocked and ashamed – but don’t blame all journalists

The recent poll by Ipsos MORI said it all, we don’t trust journalists. When I say we, I mean you, the Great British public. I trust journalists, at least I trust proper journalists, investigative journalists who expose corruption and wrongdoing, not those who create it.

I felt physically sick as more details of the News of the World’s hacking and other illegal activities came to light throughout this week. The public were already repulsed by the treatment of the parents of Millie Dowler as they were questioned in court as if they were on trial. So when stories of potential hacking of the teenager’s phone by a private detective working for the News of the World started to break, we weren’t having any of it. Then it was the phones of the two schoolgirls murdered in Soham, then it was bereaved relatives of soldiers and victims of the 7/7 bombings, it wasn’t ending, it was just beginning.

We have a self-regulated press in this country which by and large has worked, there is no censorship, editors and publishers are subject to the laws of libel and contempt of court as well as the criminal law. It’s always been argued no further regulation is needed – and I agree, who wants the Government sticking its oars into media censorship? The Press Complaints Commission needs a re-vamp and there must be an independent inquiry into the actions of the News of the World management and its accountability, which will make recommendations into future behaviour. But no, not censorship, never.

The demise of the News of the World is not deserved, many excellent journalists and other staff have lost their jobs because someone, somewhere, probably high up in News International, sanctioned and financed illegal actions.

What now? The print media is in decline, the News of the World was one of the country’s best-selling newspapers, 2.7million, or one copy for every 23 people in the country, according to the Guardian (circulation about 270,000). What does this mean for journalists?

I always go into rant mode when people criticise journalists – they (maybe I should say we,  although I trained more than 30 years ago, I still consider myself a journalist) print the stories people want to read. People complain about all the bad news they read – why? They don’t want to hear what’s good, it’s not news. People complain that the lightweight stories about celebrities and celebrity wannabes – why? It’s what they ask for. We get the press we deserve – and we’ll be very sorry when it’s gone. The public don’t trust journalists? Wait until all the news is from Twitter, Facebook and bloggers. How will we know who’s right? How will we know they’re not pushing someone’s agenda? Who will we trust?

Yes, I’m shocked and ashamed by the behaviour of some journalists, but it shouldn’t give the rest a bad press. And if you think journalists are not trusted, bottom of the MORI poll were politicians, they were even above bankers…….