What Civvy Street can teach Fleet Street

There is, thankfully, no such thing as the average journalist.

We come in all shapes and sizes, with all manner of eccentricities,obsessions and baggage.

But there’s no denying that the majority of journalists arrived in the profession in a similar way.

A-levels followed by a university degree followed by some kind of journalism course remains the most common path into the industry.

Which can mean that we struggle to reflect the society which we aspire to serve.

Later this morning, I’ve got a meeting at a college to discuss the development of an apprenticeship scheme which might be a way of injecting more diversity into our workplaces.

It’s an exciting project.

But I’m equally intrigued by the prospect of getting older people into our offices.

As I get to know the journalists I work with across my patch, it’s a genuine joy to find people who have spent time in what we might call Civvy Street.

In my region, we have journalists who were in the Navy, a foreign army, the civil service, teaching and the logistics business.

Without exception, they are among the best people we have.

They approach their jobs – and particularly their interviewees – with what politician Denis Healey called ‘hinterland’.

What they bring – life experience, shared points of reference and a sense of proportion – tends to come with a fairly developed gift of the gab as well.

It’s a thrill to see and hear them in action.

For someone who spends his days trying to teach others how to ‘do’ journalism, it’s a sobering lesson.

Sometimes a life outside journalism is the best education of all.


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