The highs and lows of journalism – where no day is ever the same!

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  • Career
  • Journalism
When I talk to people about being a journalist for more than 30 years, the same questions tend to come up.

“What’s the best story you’ve ever written or who’s the most famous person you’ve interviewed?”

Not wanting to disappoint my audience, I give them some juicy stories and then I start thinking about all the interesting and inspiring people I’ve been lucky enough to meet.

Sometimes people ask how I landed my dream job in journalism, and I chuckle about the smart blue dress I borrowed from my aunt for the interview and the fact that my mum still thinks I landed the trainee position because it ‘looked nice’.


My first day and a telling off from The Editor

I was nervous starting work at the age of 19. I had butterflies in my stomach as I arrived at the newspaper office on Monday, 23rd October, 1989.

At the weekend, I’d timed my journey from Mickleover to Burton so I wouldn’t be late, so it was a shock to get roasted by The Editor – for BEING EARLY.

“I asked you to come in at 10am,” she screeched. “So, why did you get here at 9.30am?”

My palms started sweating, and my cheeks blushed as I explained that I missed the busy traffic. She was angry and her eyes stared straight into mine.

“How can I train you to be a good journalist if you don’t do what I ask?” she boomed.

“I’ll show you the newsroom now,” she said. “But first, go and fetch me a packet of Mayfair SuperKings Blue and a cheese cob with salad cream…”


The best celebrity interviews

I loved talking to actors and musicians and there were one or two interesting celebrity interviewees across 30 years of journalism.

English actor Alan Rickman was a fave, but I also loved my hour with comedian Larry Grayson – especially when he insisted that I drop him at the train station and I led him to my battered VW Beetle that had holes in the floor.

I also had fun chatting with Kelly Jones from the Stereophonics, who was touring with the band in his retro bright yellow post office van. His press team had agreed to a time for me to call, but the phone signal was rubbish, and I probably called his number about ten times to get through. I persevered, and it made a decent piece.

Comedian Victoria Wood was hilarious, celebrity chef Gary Rhodes was grumps and England footballer John Barnes pretended to be his own secretary when I chased him for a story!

Then there was Derby-born actress Gwen Taylor. She was a gem and told the Editor that she only wanted to talk to me in the newsroom (YAY). Also, Take That, who performed one of their first gigs in a secondary school in Nottingham and my hunt for Maxine Carr after being tipped off that the girlfriend of child killer, Ian Huntley, was working in Tesco!


And then there was the sad stuff…

Days didn’t get much harder when your Editor sent you on a ‘death knock’ – a task where you were sent to a house to ask about a deceased’s life and record the bereaved’s reaction to the death.

These were terrible jobs and we all dreaded them, but often I’d be invited into someone’s home and be tasked with the hardest job in the world writing a tribute piece.

I tried not to cry on my drive back to the office, but it was impossible to hold back tears after some of these interviews. The guilt of having a full notepad and a happy Editor left me broken. Once, a family sent me flowers to say thank you, and I cried some more. The parents had lost their teenage son in a road traffic accident.


No day was ever the same – and that really was the best

I loved being a journalist because you got to be the voice for people who wanted to share their stories.

Miracle babies, successful kidney transplants, Royal visits, brave war veterans and lucky Lottery wins, you got to be involved in so many people’s lives.

I always felt honoured to spend an hour sitting on someone’s sofa and was thankful that my storytelling moved my readers.

I provided a voice for those who wanted to communicate with their community – and I’m still doing that in PR.

As I reflect on my long and lovely career the greatest privilege has been meeting all the wonderful people who gave me the words to write.


Are you looking to get your stories in the press? Wendy and the rest of the team here at Nielsen McAllister can help! Find out more about our PR and Communications services.

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