WHAT a summer it has been — courtesy of the Olympics, the Paralympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, not to mention the annual array of sporting feasts.
Hardly surprising then that news of my exit from the Dispatch, after 34 years’ service, paled into insignificance!
However, now that my departure has been made official by the announcement in last week’s paper, it is appropriate to bid my farewells and to issue my thanks to all who have influenced my career at the heart of the Hucknall and Bulwell community.
That community and the paper are very different to when I first walked through the Dispatch Office door as a naive 18-year-old on July 10 1978, having landed a job as junior reporter weeks after leaving school.
In those days, we worked with rusty, old typewriters. Reporters got around in a little, red Dispatch van (remember that?!) or even on wonky bicycles!
The paper averaged a mere 24 pages per week, with not a splash of colour in sight. All photos were in black and white. The world wide web had not even been invented.
After a spell of 22 years as editor, I can look back with pride on an era in which the paper made dramatic progress, keeping apace with technological advancements, despite limited resources. The average pagination rose to more than 40 per week, full colour is now taken for granted and the print version of the Dispatch is complemented by a digital version, via a lively, interactive website, capable of bringing you news updates every day.
While the changes were many, I believe the Dispatch always stayed loyal to the core principles that should underpin every successful local newspaper. The principles of keeping local people informed of all that is happening in their district; of providing a platform for locals to air their views, advertise their businesses and promote their events; of shining a spotlight on good or exposing bad; of galvanising readers into action to improve their lives; and of championing locals who make their communities better places.
I would like to thank all the Dispatch staff members who played their part in maintaining those principles during my 34 years at the paper. In particular, I wish to pay tribute to the editorial team who showed me the ropes back in the 1970s and 1980s. A team led by the late Vince Allen and Wilf Walker and fuelled by the skills and enthusiasm of Denis Robinson, Lynne Marlow and Brian Pickering. Receptionists Peggy Barker and the late Debbie Hargreaves were also integral to the growth of the paper.
The fact that the editorial team has had such a low turnover of staff is testament to a happy and well-oiled machine. Denis, of course, remains a legend to this day. And his expert example of loyalty and longevity of service has now been passed on to my admirable deputy, Martin Hutton, who is now in his 15th year with the Dispatch.
No local newspaper can survive, however, without its faithful band of readers and advertisers. So it is for them, or rather for YOU, that I reserve my biggest vote of thanks. Your dedication to, and reliance on, the Dispatch was nothing short of remarkable and enabled the paper to make its giant strides over the last three decades.
Picking out personal highlights from those three decades is far from easy. Guiding the paper through its centenary in 2003 was particularly memorable, not least being cajoled into singing ‘Happy Birthday’ live on stage on Hucknall Market Place! As was the revelation the following year that our circulation growth was the sixth fastest in the country, from more than 1,000 local papers.
As someone whose passion is sport, I am also particularly pleased with the way the paper revolutionised local coverage. I will never forget the many incredible achievements of clubs and individuals in the Dispatch district. All topped by the rise of Hucknall Town Football Club, which reached fairytale heights during the regime of Brian Holmes.
Of course, over the years, some of our news coverage has triggered disagreements and disputes. But I would like to think that we handled them swiftly and courteously. It is a source of professional pride that in my long term as editor, the Dispatch was never sued and was never successfully referred to the Press Complaints Commission. Equally satisfying was the success of our determined policy to be unbiased and impartial in the minefield of local politics.
Fearless but fair is the motto that has driven my 34 years at the Dispatch. As the changes continue to evolve at a rapid rate of knots, it is time for me to move on and to herald the next era of one of Hucknall and Bulwell’s local institutions.
As someone with a keen eye for the formbook and not afraid to have a bet or two (!), I am content that, as one of only four editors in the 109-year history of that institution, I backed a winner!
I have been overwhelmed by the messages of goodwill I have received since I contracted skin cancer (non-melanoma) earlier this year and since my departure from the paper. My thanks to you all -- and the best of luck for the future.
Dispatch editor 1990-2012,