Today, 28 years ago to the very day, I began my career in journalism as a cub reporter on the Spenborough Guardian.
It was a weekly broadsheet based in Cleckheaton, West Yorkshire, owned by the Hirst family. John Sr was the editor, sister Margaret was the news editor, son John Jr sold adverts. Then there was Geoff Ineson, the other news editor; John Chambers, the photographer; Eric Newton, the accountant.
I joined a news team comprising five other reporters: John Penson, Maria Munns, Anita Pickup, Angela Walker and Andrew Bannister. I worked from an old table in the newsroom. Some of my colleagues had typewriters. I did not. Instead I wrote my reports by hand onto copy paper that was then handed to compositors to type up.
Our office was next to a company that made animal feed. Thus we had pigeons in the roof space. Often they would become trapped and die, prompting the Hirsts to call in workmen who would clamber up into the void clutching black sacks, which they would fill with the stinking, rotting carcasses of maggot-ridden pigeons. Nice…
My first job – in my new jacket, trousers, shirt, tie and shiny shoes – took me to a nursery that was selling Christmas trees. John Chambers took pity on my natty attire. Donning wellies, he trudged into the midst of a field resembling a quagmire and did my job for me. I wrote up the piece when I got back to the office, based on his comments.
I learned journalism from the ground up, covering court cases, industrial tribunals, strikes, local politics (I once interviewed Michael Heseltine) amateur dramatics, sport and, of course, BMDs aka ‘hatched, matched and dispatched’. I didn’t earn much but the experience got me started.
I stayed at the Guardian for 15 months, leaving in February 1989 to join Ackrill Newspapers in Harrogate.
It all seems a long time ago now.