JOURNALISM has changed radically in the years since Graham Moss began his career as a ‘cub reporter’ in west Cumbria.

As he prepared last week to leave his role as assistant editor at BBC Radio Cumbria, he looked back fondly on a fascinating career that has – in his words – given him a “ringside seat” for some of the county’s most historic events.

It was his mother who spotted the advert for a trainee reporter with the Times & Star newspaper in Workington. He had just started A level studies at Maryport’s Netherhall School and planned to go on to university.

But after looking over his carefully handwritten application, the newspaper’s editor Terry Kirton offered Graham the job – and he did not hesitate to accept. He started at the Times & Star in 1981 on his 17th birthday.

Guided by veteran journalist John Walsh, the teenager threw himself into the role. “Walshie was the epitome of what a journalist should be,” said Graham, recalling his early days in the job.

“He had a nose for a story; he could write well, and he knew everybody. He was a brilliant team player; and he could literally write his copy on a scrap of paper and then he’d buy you a pint at the end of the day.” “There were loads of other characters at the paper, including Joan Cooper, the chief reporter; it was rare in those days for a woman to do that job.”

A lifelong Workington Reds fan, Graham was thrilled to report on the team. His role gave him a solid journalism grounding as he covered all manner of stories, from carnivals and golden weddings to major disasters.

“Just getting a byline was a buzz,” said Graham, who also wrote a pop music column.

“The day always started with a visit to the fire station. They took me under their wing. If there was a big fire in west Cumbria I’d get a front page with that. I loved the job. The firemen were characters and I still know some of them. I’d turn up on my scooter with all my mod gear and they’d take the mickey. I also covered golden weddings and carnivals.

“Woe betide you if you got a name wrong.”

Graham later took on responsibility for covering Cockermouth.

He moved into radio in 1986. An avid radio listener himself, he learned new skills and later moved to ITV Border, working as a reporter and then a producer.

By 2001, Graham had returned to BBC Radio Cumbria as news editor and was organising coverage of a huge story – the foot and mouth crisis. “It mushroomed and took over everything,” he said.

“We were on air for hours on end.” Four years later, Graham was covering yet another Cumbrian crisis in the 2005 floods. His team – on occasions broadcasting through the night – won national accolades for their work.

“You’re there for reassurance; to tell people what they need to know. Foot and mouth gave us the template. People weren’t getting the answers they wanted from Government. They came to us for answers. If the phone rang, it could be a farmer, absolutely furious. Or it could be somebody from a tourism business at the end of their tether. It was commonplace to have somebody in tears on the end of the phone. That’s emotionally draining, day in, day out – and it went on for months.”

“ With us being the worst affected county, it dominated the news agenda. We had to give people the information; you had to hold them to account; and you had to be a companion for people.“It was a multi-layered role. We were named station of the year through it. “What local radio does at times like this proves its worth. I’ve always passionately believed in that. Even with cuts, we’re always there for people.”

Another fond memory was co-commentating on a certain Carlisle United game, on May 8, 1999 – the day that hero goalkeeper Jimmy Glass scored the goal that kept the club in the Football League. “I was co-commentating with Derek Lacey,” said Graham.

He remembers his late co-host – his voice hoarse with the emotion – turning to him as he was temporarily overwhelmed, by the occasion, saying: “Please, Graham, take over. I can’t do it any more. “I wasn’t paid to be there but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

Graham has had three stints to BBC Scotland, including setting up a nightly politics show during the 2014 independence referendum. “We were literally the last word on it before they went to vote,” he said, clearly proud.

“For an English lad to go into a Scottish newsroom and to have a ringside seat on this monumental story was something special.”

So what is he most proud of? “Getting away with it for 39 years!”, he replied, no doubt grinning. “I’ve stayed in employment in this business - though wherever I’ve been I seem to have just missed the golden age.”

In recent months, he faced yet more challenges thanks to the pandemic.

The married father-of-two, who worked with local broadcasting legends such as Eric Wallace, Fiona Armstrong and Helen Skelton, said the time was right to move on.

Though his craft is increasingly affected by the internet, journalism for Graham was always about people – telling their stories and chronicling the events that shape their lives. He has clearly relished that task. “It’s a calling,” he said.

He has yet to decide what he’ll do next but Graham, who cycled 13 miles daily to and from work, says it will certainly include more time in the saddle. He will clearly be missed: one former colleague described him as “ridiculously talented, kind and supportive.”

His Twitter account gives a clue perhaps to at least some of his future: Graham describes himself as an: “Old Mod with passion for cycling, beer, church, more beer.”