First Person - with Allan Crow

Allan Crow
Allan Crow

Now, this looks awfi’ nice. New colours, new designs and my full-length photo now just a bawheid.

It’s all part of our redesign which has been some time in the planning and includes all our titles across Fife.

Relaunches, revamps, new looks - they always follow the same format.

First you get the over-view, then you get into the training, and then you’re let loose with enough manuals and factsheets to insulate a wee potting shed.

Safety nets are then wheeched away, stress levels hit code red, the office swear box contains enough money to fly the entire staff first class to Richard Branson’s private island - and that’s just my contribution - the computer mouse is slammed WWF style into the mat every 30 seconds, and yet, it all turns out alright on the night. Always does.

Newspapers, and newsrooms, are adaptable, highly creative critters.

We can switch horses in mid-race and somehow stay in the saddle.

This time last week we were working on a slightly different system.

As soon as the paper hit the streets last Thursday we logged off, had a quick cuppa, and started to get our heads round a completely different way of working.

And while the staff were taking their steps into a ‘digital first’ world, we were busy testing dummy pages just a few steps ahead of them.

By Friday tea-time it was easing back to ‘business as usual’ levels of stress - i.e. one notch below code red and flying by the seat of our breeks - and the very fact you are reading this means we’ve come full circle. Job done!

We’ll do it all again next week, and the one after that - it’s how newspapers roll.

Technology lies at the heart of many of the changes. Laptops, wi-fi and smart phones mean I can work anywhere - got my eye on a table with a seaview down at Society as my second office! - and, along with all the Fife staff, I am now a mobile journalist. Or mojo.

I’m pretty sure Mojos were sweeties I ate by the kilo as a kid, but I kinda like the title - Mojo Al looks good on the old business card!

Today we write stories for the web and the paper, we can also shoot video, blog, Tweet, Facebook, record podcasts and if I ever figure out yon weird Google+ I’ll be Google+-ing to my wee heart’s content.

It’s a far cry from my very first day as a trainee reporter at the Glenrothes Gazette.

Seventeen years old, straight out of school and plonked in front of a muckle old typewriter, I started typing with one finger, added a second ... and that’s as far as I’ve ever got. Thirty-three years on those two typing fingers are going strong - the rest just keep out of the way!

I still miss the clackety-clack of my old Olivetti keys - round buttons with gold lettering, including old money icons for £s, shillings and pence.

They took it away and gave me a PC keyboard which looked like something Rick Wakeman used to play, and had strange keys with anagrams on them - CMD, Alt, Del and INS.

My computer screen was black with green text. It made Space Invaders look cutting edge. We had something called MS-DOS, and five-inch floppy discs to work off. They stored about as much info as a shopping list. Aye,we thought it was state of the art ...!

The discs shrunk and then vanished as systems changed, desktop publishing was invented and we re-thought how we did what we did.

But, at the end of the day, it isn’t about technology. It’s about stories - about getting out, speaking to folk and rattling the odd cage here and there. The job, for all its pressures and challenges, remains like no other, and it’s still fun.

Breaking news online is a buzz, blogging generates great debate, podcasts are fun - they get the FFP to people in more ways then just print.

But Mojo Al will still pack a notebook and pen in his funky new kit bag.

Just in case ...