The psychological background to my career in journalism

First published in Opinion The Westmorland Gazette: Photograph of the Author by

WE journalists can be uncaring bods. Over the years, I’ve written countless embarrassing stories about people.

You know the sort of thing - spurned wives dumping errant husbands’ best designer clothes on the front lawn; naked bridegrooms handcuffed to lamposts on drunken stag nights; and firemen called out to remove tightly stuck cake tins from children’s heads.

Whatever the embarrassment I’ve covered it. But not, I have to say, with glee.

The truth is I’ve some sympathy for people who find their personal misfortunes exposed in print. So why, you might ask, have I been happy to go along with reporting these so-called ‘human interest’ stories?

Well, it’s rather psychologically complicated - and the root cause goes back to when yours truly was just two.

Although painful to recall, 60 years ago I, too, was exposed to ridicule in my own local newspaper. I remember the day in 1953 as if it were yesterday. Mum had wrapped me up and sent me off to find my father who was building an extension just a few doors down. Except I never found him. Instead, I carried on walking out of our town along a busy main road until I came to a cafe where I was taken in by the bemused owner.

By this time, a major police search had been launched and they were just about to drag the local canal when news of my discovery was revealed.

I was returned to the loving embrace of my parents, but that wasn’t the end of the affair.

A week later the local paper reported my disappearance beneath the embarrassing headline ‘The Elizabethan Adventurer’.

I had, of course, unwisely chosen to go walkabout in the year of the Queen’s coronation and the headline writer obviously wanted to ingratiate himself with HMQ.

As for me, I decided to become a journalist to dish out what I’d so embarrassingly been dished.

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