I’ve been a journalist ever since I left school at fifteen. My first job was as a runner for my local evening newspaper. From there I progressed to that great training ground: the small ads, followed by control of the births, deaths and marriages section – what we called ‘Hatch ’em, match ’em and despatch ’em’. Three years I was on that. Then I was apprenticed to Joe, an experienced journalist. I followed Joe everywhere he went. Usually, my job consisted of fetching him pies, mugs of tea or glasses of beer, depending on the time of day and the location. But he did teach me a lot. Whilst he was consuming whatever I’d brought him, he’d always talk me through what he’d done and how he’d approached the latest job. Sometimes, at the juiciest parts, he’d even empty his mouth before giving me the details.
Eventually, Joe said he’d take a chance on me, and sent me out on my own to watch and report on the official opening of a village fete. It was our local MP did the opening, and as we were only a month or so short of an election, I took the chance to ask him some questions about the local political scene and his plans for the next parliament, if he and his lot were elected. Boy, did I get a roasting from Joe for that. I was supposed to report on what I saw. I wasn’t supposed to interview the celebrity. I pointed out to Joe that he hadn’t said I shouldn’t, which he accepted was true, and in fact pointed it out to the editor when he was called in to be hauled over the coals for letting me go out alone.
I never found out exactly what happened in that meeting, but a memo that went round the following week told me all I needed to know. It was to all staff, and it said that Joe had been promoted from senior reporter to chief reporter, and I was moved from trainee reporter to junior reporter to understudy Elise, who was in charge of political reporting. When I asked her about it, Elise said that although I shouldn’t have done that interview, and although my piece was simplistic and naïve, it showed promise. Her job, she said, was to knock me into shape as a political reporter, if I was agreeable. I blushed. Why? Because I had for some time had a bit of a crush on Elise, and the idea that she found me ‘agreeable’ provoked a reaction that, had she noticed it, she would have thought highly inappropriate.
After about five years with that paper, I had a call from a commercial radio station. They were headhunting me as political commentator and offering more than twice the salary the paper was paying me. Of course I took it. Wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t everybody, given the chance? Anyway, I did that job for seven years, occasionally freelancing with a local TV outfit. It was my work with local TV that got the eye of the regional bosses of a national TV news collecting outfit, which is where I am now.
The deal with the news TV is that I don’t do politics at the editor level – they’ve got very senior guys for that – but I do general news reporting which sometimes has a political dimension Today, I’m talking to the founder of a bird centre that works win conservation of birds of prey around the world and has been heavily involved in the efforts to address and reverse the drastic declines of vultures, particularly in Pakistan and South Africa.
Important work, yes. What they are doing is vital on so many levels. And there probably is a political angle to it, if I dig deep enough. Thing is, though, if I handle this well, maybe the political editor will see it and be sufficiently impressed to offer me a permanent slot on his team. So. Heads in gear and here goes.
“You ready, Sir?”
“As I’ll ever be.”
“Great. Deep breath and let’s get started. Three… two… one… and – I’m standing here this morning in what is unquestionably one of my favourite places in the south of England. A haven of peace and tranquillity broken only by the calls of some of the world’s most iconic birds of prey. I’m going to be talking with the founder of this very important charity about the work it does in the struggle to conserve vulnerable populations of some of the planet’s most endangered species …“
This was written in response to Kreative Kue 311 published on this site. Although not mentioned by name, acknowledgements are due to the Hawk Conservancy Trust (https://www.hawk-conservancy.org) and to its founder, Ashley Smith.