From royal vis­its to car crashes, we re­ported it all

Surrey Herald/News - - NEWS -

THE glory days of the Her­ald & News, when it seemed vir­tu­ally ev­ery house­hold in the area pur­chased a copy, had long gone by the time I joined the ed­i­to­rial team at Staines just after Christ­mas 1988. I was still proud to be part of an or­gan­i­sa­tion that had been mon­i­tor­ing and record­ing lo­cal go­ings-on – of all lev­els of sig­nif­i­cance – for nigh on a cen­tury. Many as­pects of lo­cal news­pa­per jour­nal­ism had hardly changed in the 20th cen­tury. When I first worked in the lit­tle Her­ald & News of­fice at 1 Church Street, we still typed our sto­ries on small pieces of green copy pa­per with two sheets of car­bon pa­per in-be­tween. There were no com­put­ers in the news­room, no mo­bile phones and our ex­po­sure to the lat­est tech­nol­ogy of the time was so limited that when our of­fice out­post was fi­nally deemed im­por­tant enough to take de­liv­ery of a new-fan­gled fax ma­chine – a piece of equip­ment as large and cum­ber­some as a small car – we re­porters were so de­lighted with this vastly more ef­fi­cient method of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, that we went to the pub to cel­e­brate. Well, any ex­cuse! Squeezed into the first floor con­fines of the tiny of­fice were stacks of dusty bound vol­umes of the news­pa­per go­ing back to the ear­li­est days. One driz­zly lunchtime I found my­self flick­ing through the pages of sev­eral of th­ese tomes, to­tally ab­sorbed by the wealth of in­for­ma­tion and depth of cov­er­age in past years. It seemed the clos­est thing to time travel – and an eye-open­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that was to gen­er­ate a pas­sion for lo­cal his­tory which re­mains with me to this day. Our sec­ond re­serve typewriter in those years was an an­cient Un­der­wood, which was of­ten pressed into use, par­tic­u­larly for work ex­pe­ri­ence young­sters. The noisy old Un­der­wood wasn’t the only relic of the news­pa­per’s ear­lier days to still be in ser­vice. I was lucky enough to toil along­side the leg­endary Jack Bosher, a man who had de­voted his en­tire work­ing life to the Her­ald & News. His rem­i­nis­cences of the ‘good old days’ on the lo­cal pa­per were both en­ter­tain­ing and il­lu­mi­nat­ing, and his doc­trine was a big in­flu­ence on my ca­reer. A cou­ple of decades ago the ‘news gath­er­ing’ side of the op­er­a­tion had re­mained un­al­tered since the launch of the news­pa­per in 1892. We wel­comed peo­ple from all walks of life into the Church Street of­fice and we went out into the com­mu­nity – some­times a leisurely visit to a school or church event, or per­haps in more of a hurry, run­ning to the other end of town after a tip-off about an in­ci­dent of some sort. We shared the joy and sad­ness – and of­ten the anger and despair – of mem­bers of the com­mu­nity. We wit­nessed the ex­cite­ment of royal vis­its, the spec­ta­cle of car­ni­vals, protest marches and sport­ing oc­ca­sions, but also the hor­rific af­ter­math of ac­ci­dents. And all so that we could record th­ese events in the weekly news­pa­per.

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