Thursday, November 3, 2005

Due South
By Mark Entwistle
The Southern Reporter
Selkirk, The Borders
Scotland

Congrats on “Best Weekly in Scotland!”

This week, staff here at The Southern Reporter were able to feature themselves in the news, in a manner of speaking, thanks to picking up an award for being the best weekly newspaper in Scotland.

Handed out by the UK-wide Newspaper Society, this was the fourth year in a row that The Southern had picked up this particular title.

It was a nice way to start the week, but with the editor on holiday last week and yours truly in the hot seat as acting boss, I am afraid the award was soon forgotten in the hurley-burley of a hectic newsroom.

Part of that was to do with the fact that, as well as the editor, the holiday chart had also claimed one reporter and a photographer, while another reporter was sucked full-time into her other role as editor of a glossy magazine that we also publish.

At any rate it made for an exciting week - that’s newspaper speak for stressful!

But then I suppose if we had wanted a more ordinary job of the sort where you get to be out the door by 5 p.m. and everything is always someone else’s problem to sort out, none of us would be in this line of work.

After 18 years of working as a professional newspaperman I still get a big kick out of doing it.

Sure, there are plenty of days when you could sell the whole thing for enough to retire and run a big game fishing charter boat off the coast of Florida - hey, if it was good enough for Papa Hemingway, it’s good enough for me.

Seriously though, I honestly believe this is what I was meant to do. OK, so I am not working on a national daily trying to uncover the latest political wrangles involving Tony Blair or George Bush or dodging bullets whilst in Iraq.

Of course, there is excitment being a reporter on big national and international events and, yes, sometimes reading a well-crafted piece of prose from the frontline in some far away war zone does make you feel any journalist worth his or her salt should be there.

However, one thing I have learned is that local news is just as important and has to be covered with the same degree of professionalism as any major news story.

Because with local newspapers like The Southern Reporter and The South Reporter, we are covering people’s lives and the life of our local communities week in and week out.

A big news story happens on our patch and you can’t move for satellite television vans and microphones.

And then just as quick, they’re all gone off chasing the next big thing and the community is left to get on with their lives.

But as local newspapers we record all of those lives. We record their lives from cradle to grave and the important things that happen in between.

Sure we have our own ‘hard’ news stories, but our pages also contain reports of local students graduating from college and university, local people making successes out of new businesses, local sporting achievements and charity fund-raising efforts.

Raffles, whist drives, charity auctions, women’s guild nights, bowling competitions, darts tournaments, gardening columns, wildlife columns, fancy dress parades, music festivals and columns like this.

This is the stuff of real lives of real people and reporting these faithfully, matters every bit as much to them as what they read in the big dailies or see on their television sets.

Of course, now you are all wondering exactly what important news could actually be found in the august pages of the award-winning Southern Reporter!

Well, last week our front page photo showed Scotland’s most senior Catholic clergyman blessing a local flock of sheep. Yes, that’s perfectly true. It didn’t raise any eyebrows here since sheep vastly outnumber people.

Also on the front were reports of plans to close two community hospitals so the local health chiefs can save money.

We also had a story about a local couple, Dougie and Isobel Hogarth who found themselves stranded in Mexico after Hurricane Wilma battered the beach resort of Cancun.

And last week, we also had a three-page autumn farming special review section, which featured the Scottish National Ploughing Championships.

This competition was held on farmland in the Borders and as well as modern state-of-the-art tractors, there were classes for ploughing using vintage tractors and even classes for horse-drawn ploughs.

It is an incredible sight to see these giants of the equine world pulling the heavy ploughs through the soil as man and beast work in harmony.

These Clydesdale and Shire horses are known over here as ‘heavy’ horses for obvious reasons!

And this week, we are all looking forward to Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire Night as it is called, on November 5.

This marks the occasion over 400 hundred years ago, when a group of plotters tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament and kill the king.

Needless to say, it was foiled and the unfortunate men were put to death in rather unpleasant fashion.

On Saturday, bonfires will be lit across Great Britain and families and communities will set gather to set off fireworks.

Atop most bonfires will sit a stuffed scarecrow-like effigy of the leader of the Gunpowder Plot, Guy Fawkes.

It’s been a hectic week for parents, what with Halloween on Monday night and now Bonfire Night on Saturday.

Between getting kids turned into mini versions of Dracula and headless horsemen to making sure the raging family bonfire on Guy Fawkes’ Night doesn’t set fire to the garden shed, being a parent is more hectic than a newspaper reporter - and mums and dads don’t get awards for it either!


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