Because I love a good story… I’ve never been one for wrapping my head around hugely complex issues and I’d never be reporting for the Financial Times. But I do like talking to people and hearing their stories. And then talking to more people and building on that story. I’ve met some really interesting folk in my career and the best of them aren’t the ones you’d suspect, they’re not the celebrities or the Prime Ministers or the people with impressive job titles and experience; they’re the every day people with something fascinating to share.
Because I love writing… Since I was a kid I’ve always been writing. It started with short stories when I was nipper and then slightly longer ones as a teenager. But I didn’t have the ideas or creativity to become a novelist and chose to report other people’s stories instead of making up my own (some may say this is what journos do but the good ones don’t need to). I’m much better at reporting the facts than making stuff up, plus the internet has opened up a whole new way of writing – I can now write what I like, plonk it up on my blog, and hope that people read it. It’s given a whole new meaning to freedom of expression and as well as reporting facts in my working life, I can comment and rant and blather on in my personal life and still have readers, commenters and somewhere else for my mum to stalk me.
I wanted to do good in the world… it’s important to make a difference when I go to work. Granted, this doesn’t happen every day, but I have helped people (and also caused people some problems no doubt) by reporting the news. During my time at the North Shropshire Chronicle we launched the Sink or Swim Campaign to help save a local swimming pool from closure. The council hated us for it and it may seem like small cheese now, but it was a huge local issue impacting schools and families for miles around. We won, the pool stayed open, and we scooped a Campaigning Newspaper of the Year Award to boot.
The job title rocks… there is nothing wrong with doing any other job in the world (give or take a few) but I love the interest people take when you tell them you’re a journalist, save for the odd jibe about having a recorder in your pocket, talking off the record and being called Lois Lane. My dad will tell you success means earning as much as you possibly can but, for me – until I strike it lucky on the Lottery at least – it’s about being passionate and proud and enjoying what you do.
Feel good factor from passing on knowledge… journalism teaches you some handy skills, not least the ability write in some shape or form and to communicate well. People call on these skills all the time, and not necessarily in a professional capacity; folk are interested in your opinions and ask for your help in re-writing speeches, adverts or communicating messages. And it’s nice to feel wanted, needed. There are also new journalists climbing onto the bottom wrung of the ladder, just like I did over a decade ago. And I’ve always been keen to pass on my knowledge (the mistakes made, the lessons learned) to help shape the next batch of young journos to enter the newsroom. And some of my junior reporters are getting bigger headlines than me these days and that makes me proud, of them and of me. Yes, I got ribbed for littering junior reporters’ screens with post-it notes so they wouldn’t forget the difference between ‘compliment’ and ‘complement’ but I’m pretty sure they won’t have forgotten, just like I haven’t forgotten the things my editors taught me: if in doubt, leave it out; best to have a good story for deadline than an amazing story past deadline; keep it simple etc.
Q Why did you become a journalist or why do you want to be one? Spill the beans…