By Lisa Rowley
Just over a year ago I made a life-changing decision – to leave my career as a journalist after more than 18 years. It was something I thought carefully about – after-all journalism had been a large part of my adult life so far. All my career I had worked for the same employer, Shropshire Newspapers but now that would all change.
Journalism was something I had wanted to get into since my school days but I decided to follow the path into teaching with my studies at Warwick University. However, despite that choice I played an active life in media through the campus newspaper and radio station. It was something I found exciting and exhilarating – to discover new things and to inform people. I decided at the end of my course to do a six-month journalism course in Hastings, East Sussex, in journalism achieving the useful skills of 100 words a minute shorthand and touch typing.
It was the editor of the Telford Journal, Mike Greatholder, who gave me my first opportunity in newspapers, employing me as the weekly publication’s sole reporter. There I got the chance to write a variety of stories, from events to planning rows and council meetings. I was only on the paper for nine months but it gave me a good start in my career.
It was then on to the evening newspaper, the Shropshire Star, where I began as a general reporter. I enjoyed the variety the job gave, not knowing what each day would bring. My following roles saw me become chief reporter, in charge of the newspaper’s north office, before returning to Telford as deputy chief reporter.
Of course there were highs and lows, as with any job out there. On the downside there was the perception as a journalist that it was all about scandal and controversy. Of course, those are the areas that often sell papers. But being a local reporter is completely different to being on a national newspaper when you are part of the community you are writing stories about. It was important to build and maintain contacts.
Of course, what was not a favourite job for journalists was what was termed ‘death knocks’ which involved speaking to bereaved relatives. It was part of the job, something that we could not avoid.
I was speaking to people under stressful circumstances when the last thing they probably needed was someone asking them questions about their loved one. But I was fortunate in my time as a journalist that most of the time people took the time to speak to me, which I was grateful for.
It’s also not always easy having a social life being a journalist. The days were long – especially when covering meetings after a full day in the office. There was also that unpredictability which meant you could not always plan your evenings for fear of it being disrupted at the last minute because of a breaking story.
But on the upside the job gave me the chance to meet some interesting people, not just famous ones. There were characters like Eustace Rogers from Ironbridge, the last in his family of coracle makers. I built up continuing relationships with many of my contacts and gaining their trust. Although stories about people who had died were not the best part of the job it was rewarding when families were pleased with the result and the tribute paid to their loved one.
There was also the excitement of covering a breaking story and working with your fellow reporters trying to get information to go into the newspaper with a short deadline. I did like seeing my name in the newspaper and being proud that my work had some purpose. I also loved the research aspect of the job to find background information and making sure my facts were correct.
But now I have left that life behind to take advantage of new opportunities.On the work side of things I am now a freelance PR writer, including for J&PR. It has given me more time to enjoy life, as well as to improve my skills. I now have Level Two and Three IT qualifications in Microsoft Office, courses I was able to complete in weeks not months. This year I have completed my A-level in photography and await the result in August and I have also been studying Spanish. I certainly believe I made the right decision and am looking forward to further success in my career.