THERE’S a romantic streak in even the most cynical journalists.
It is no surprise then that so many tears are being shed for the regional newspaper offices being shut all over the country.
Grieve if you will for a glorious past, but when you have done that look forward. Bulldozers destroy buildings, not industries with a heart like ours.
Once, not so long ago, newspaper offices (and their press halls) were symbols of institutions in fine financial fettle.
Many, of course, still enjoy imposing quarters, but others have quit for more modest lodgings.
As the months go by I find myself watching the staging posts of my own career being toppled.
The Berwick Advertiser’s modest but attractive building on Marygate, where I served my first day as a newspaper reporter, was sold this year.
The Dickensian Morpeth Herald office in Bridge Street, where I later saw out my indentures, was abandoned many years earlier.
Just this month the Derby Telegraph, my first daily, announced that it was leaving its imposing base in Meadow Road. It was never, in truth, the swankiest of locations, but from its setting alongside the railway it impressed itself upon the consciousness of everyone arriving in the city by train.
In the 1990s I was chief sub-editor of the Bristol Evening Post, where I learned so much from the ranks of astonishingly talented journalists there. The paper’s architecturally lauded Temple Way edifice remains, though it has been carelessly mutilated by the demolition of its press hall.
By the early 2000s I was production editor at the Stoke Sentinel, whose mighty building at Etruria dominated the entry to Hanley from the A500 D-road on the site where Josiah Wedgwood’s pottery had once stood. It is now owned by a betting firm.
It is, of course, sad to say goodbye to buildings like this, even though many of the larger ones were actually relatively modern. They were constructed in the Eighties and Nineties when the giant colour presses of the boom years were being installed.
Before then newspapers were mostly based in city-centre offices. Ironically, and perhaps not before time, that is where many are returning.
The Derby Telegraph, for example, has a new home opposite the city’s Intu shopping centre, while the Sentinel has now settled into Stoke’s Cultural Quarter. Both are locations closer to the hearts of their communities.
Some companies, such as Johnston Press are shutting offices altogether and setting up surgeries and other contact points where people can meet reporters. We operate this system at the Malvern Gazette, one of the newspapers on which I work.
Reporters will, for sure, miss the banter of being in the office, but they may end up being closer to the people for whom they write than they have been in years.
Equipped with a mobile phone and camera, laptop and direct link to their newspaper’s website they are self-contained publishing operations with free rein to publish (within guidelines) their own stories as they write them.
It is exciting and liberating, and a little bit frightening too.
The old places with all their fond memories are going. But this is change, not decay. There is a difference.
- Since I wrote this post another of my former stamping grounds, the Shields Gazette offices in Chapter Row, South Shields, was bulldozed. (November 2014).