From royal visits to car crashes, we reported it all
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.