It was 30 years ago today……..

If you believe my friends on the nationals, the 30th anniversary we should all be celebrating right now is that of Live Aid.

Okay, it was an extraordinary piece of international entertainment history which raised around £150 million. I’ll give Sir Bob Geldof that.

But for me, it was the warm-up for a more personal milestone.

Thirty years ago today, a slightly awkward 21-year-old who still had hair put on a very naff jacket and tie and – with Quo and Queen still ringing in his ears – set off for his first day as a professional journalist.

As I have said before, it was a funny old job, and one free of many of the pressures faced by today’s reporters.

For nearly two years, I happily filled my scrapbook with cuttings charting demands for the Crediton Bypass – a road that three decades on has yet to be fully built – and the other minutiae of life in rural mid-Devon.

In the years since then, I’ve worked for three other papers, getting involved in running their various newsdesks, and toiling alongside what must be around 200 different reporters.

IT systems, approaches to news coverage, ethical boundaries, technology, public expectations and the demands of the job have all changed over those 30 years. In some cases beyond recognition, in others through what turned out to be 360-degree arcs.

There’s no doubt that life as a journalist is more difficult today, with a level of accountability, multitasking, number-crunching and complexity undreamed of in 1985.

But the job remains an enthralling one.

The craic, the privileges, the satisfaction and the sheer boisterousness of a good newsroom have no match in any other industry – apart perhaps from the performing arts.

And for all that working life has been transformed, the basic principles remain the same.

The most important thing I want from a reporter is the same now as it has ever been.

I want someone who can get stories that people don’t know about – and which others may not want them to know about – and to tell those stories well.

Yes, you also need to be able to sell those stories through social media. Yes, you need to be fluent in digital techniques. And yes, you need to be organised and flexible.

But without decent stories, we are nothing.

And I firmly believe that in 30 years’ time, an ability to get people to talk and words to sing will still be what really matters.


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