The write stuff & the buzz of deadline day

The Fife Free Press Group newsroom
The Fife Free Press Group newsroom

By Allan Crow

This is Local Newspaper Week - the one time in the year this industry puffs its chest out slightly and steps into the spotlight to take a wee bow.

And so we should.

I’ve spent my entire working life in newspapers, save for six months as a temporary civil servant and usher at the Playhouse Theatre after I left school. An unusual combo...

That’s 33 years of typing with the same two fingers, battering out millions - possibly billions - of words on typewriters, computers and now a laptop and an ipad.

If every notebook I’d ever filled was laid end to end, it’d probably cover the entire route of Fife Coastal Path. That’s a lot of shorthand! Some of it may even be readable...

Local Newspaper Week reminded me of all the good things about this job.

For all its pressures, the hours that verge on the crazy, and the pay that is, let’s be honest, pretty rubbish, the actual job is one of the best going.

I could get all philosophical about how every week we record and archive the changing face of Kirkcaldy - which we do (and no-one else does) - but deep down, at its simplest, we do it because we enjoy writing.

My old Napier journalism lecturer, Bill Allsopp, a craggy doyen of the days when the Daily Express was THE paper of choice, always maintained journalism wasn’t a profession - it was a craft.

He was right.

Thirty years on I still get a buzz out of seeing the paper hit the shops. The days when I could watch it flying off the press at Mitchelston may be long gone - the Brothers Grim, ‘Health’ and ‘Safety’ saw to that long before we switched printing to Eurocentral - but Thursday morning still sees lots of folk pick up their FFP. And so the cycle continues for another week...

Newspapers still fascinate and captivate me.

There’s a thrill about seeing your name in print or online, reading the work of colleagues and flicking through an end product which, just a few days earlier consisted of a list of ideas, some possible stories and notes in folks’ heads.

The way the news team pulls it together is amazing.

Pressure? Pah, if you can survive in a newsroom then you can do anything.

At Kirk Wynd we produce five papers in four days. As one finishes, another moves along the conveyor belt towards its print slot - every day someone is on a deadline. You can spot them; they’re either staring fiercely at a computer screen or OD-ing on coffee. Sometimes both.

Last week the news team delivered 292 pages of news - content entirely devoted to towns across Fife.

There isn’t a single website, radio station, social media blogger or TV organisation that can match that.

It’s true newspaper sales have diminished over the years, but the appetite for news has not. People simply access it in different ways, and so we have adapted what we do - and how we do it.

My trusty notebook and pen now sit in a kitbag which includes a smartphone, ipad and laptop.

In 2014 I have become a mojo - a mobile journalist - who can tweet, blog, shoot video, record audio, take pics, and break news online. Journalists being creative, smart folk have taken all of it on board, and figured out how to make it work while also filling those 292 pages of news.

I have no doubt that somewhere right now some spotty wee geek of a teenager is inventing a new way of communicating that makes social media look as obselete as a 1920s’ telegram, and our industry will a) want to slap him, but b) adapt once more and do what we do best of all, and that’s tell the stories that matter most to the people in our own towns.

The theme of Local Newspaper week is ‘make a difference.’

That’s what we do. It’s what we will always do.

In print, online, on social media, every day, every week and on every possible platform ...