In years to come, what are the chances that today’s new media pioneers will be doing something completely unrelated to their online activities, only to come across a piece of their work from, oooh, 15 0r 16 years ago?
Traditional newspapers are being forced to change and increasingly seeing online versions as their salvation. But while there are countless benefits of digital media, you can’t line a budgie cage or a cat litter tray with a downloadable pdf. Nor can you wrap a portion of fish and chips in yesterday’s blog entry.
And it is highly unlikely that cost-conscious householders will be able to line draughty spots in their attics with unused or unwanted MySpace pages.
Newspapers, on the other hand, are useful for all of the above. And there’s an undeniable pleasure in finding an old, yellowed copy in an unexpected place, then enjoying the almost guilty thrill of reminiscing furiously. That’s exactly what happened to me today.I moved into my current house almost five years ago. Not long after that the missus started the blitz of turning it from someone else’s home into ours. Out with the old fixtures and fittings went most of the carpets.
Anyone who’s ever peeled back carpets knows that your almost certain to find a few sheets of newspaper under there and, true to form, we did. We laughed and pointed and generally did the reminiscing thing. But those papers under the carpet were either the wrong vintage or the wrong titles to reflect any of my own newspaper career.
Fast forward a few years and now that we’re more settled in our home, we’ve got the builders in for a bigger project. That’s why I found myself being dispatched into a crawl space in our attic to clear out some old rubble, planks of wood and other detritus left by the previous incumbents.
Scrunched up among it all were a bunch of newspaper pages – and with one look at the masthead I knew I’d stuck gold. This was the Edinburgh Evening News from the late 80s or early 90s – my hometown paper and the place where I started my journalsitc career, with a stint from 1988 to 1992.
As I excitedly straightened the brittle pages and organised them into the correct order, I was spotting the bylines of former friends and colleagues. During my own time at the paper I was pretty prolific, so I was looking forward to seeing my own name too.
But it soon became apparent that the four star Home Edition of the Evening News, from Tuesday, September 17, 1991 was not an edition I had contributed to – or if any of the smaller stories were mine, they weren’t bylined.
Still, I wasn’t too downhearted, because there were plenty of other names to get me all misty eyed – and one photo in particular which left both me and the missus in stitches. More of which in a later entry.
As I got further into the crawl space I found another paper. This one was a copy of the now defunct Edinburgh and Lothians Post, a weekly freesheet. Again it was from 1991 (August 24) and featured a couple of bylines I recognised.
By the time I got to the farthest reaches of the crawl space, my torch was giving out and my nostrils were clogging with dust. So, when I found a final, crumpled newspaper my expectations weren’t high. How wrong I was.
As I smoothed out the pages I spotted my work on page 11 – By Scott Douglas, Crime Reporter. It was a report of how the Drug Squad at Lothian and Borders police had been praised in a report by the Home Secretary. Not much of story really.
But I’m saving the best til last – because this is how it really played out. When I first looked over the front page story – or the splash as it is known in journalistic parlance – there didn’t seem to be a byline on it.
However, something about the story rang a vague and distant bell. An inmate from Edinburgh’s Saughton Prison, left grief-stricken by the death of his six-year-old daughter, had gone on the run. And sure enough, when I read closer there at the end of the second parargraph was the legend, writes Scott Douglas.
So there you go. The article included a smiling picture of the runaway – known as a “collect” – and a full interview and posed up pics of his common law wife, who very thoughtfully supplied a great story line by urging him to stay on the run. In other words it was the full package.
Admittedly not the greatest story ever, but looking back 16 years I can be satisfied that my younger self did a good, thorough and professional job on it. Which makes the pleasure in finding this example of my work – dated Saturday, September 14, 1991 – even more satisfying.
Now I will be marking my diary accordingly. Round about January 2024, I hope to crank up an old and hopelessly outdated PC, run a quick online search and come up with this blog entry to see how it has stood the test of time.
Whatever the result, I’m pretty sure this blog will never offer any draught-exclusion properties!