News man Richard Batson reflects on 40 years with the EDP as he heads for pastures new

Richard Batson, standing next to the Henry Blogg bust in Cromer. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Richard Batson, standing next to the Henry Blogg bust in Cromer. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Step into my time machine and fly back 40 years to the dawn of my career as a newspaperman.

Richard Batson career pictures Dereham in the 1980s

Richard Batson career pictures Dereham in the 1980s - Credit: Archant

It was a time of clattering, jingling typewriters in smoke-filled newsrooms.

An era of roving reporters, with no mobile phones or internet, doing a lot of leg work - and having a monopoly on the news before the birth of local radio.

Our words were put on to sheets of paper, bundled into parcels and put onto buses and trains and sent to head office.

There studious sub-editors armed with wisdom, text books, glue and pencils corrected and polished our words.

Richard Batson farewell - college prize trip to Cyprus with the Army in 1975

Richard Batson farewell - college prize trip to Cyprus with the Army in 1975 - Credit: Archant

Then it was off to the noisy 'works' where they were turned into metal pages, papier mache moulds and printing plates - ready to for the thundering presses to spew editions into vans and on to the streets.

It sounds like a scene from a black and white movie, but it the world of journalism I stepped into as a cub reporter.

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Inspired by the president-toppling work of Woodward and Bernstein - and having cut my teeth as a schoolboy writing programmes and match reports for his Subutteo table football games - it was the obvious career.

And, as I step down today to embark on change of course into public relations, it has been a good one.

Richard Batson farewell - the EDP sub editors' desk in bygone days

Richard Batson farewell - the EDP sub editors' desk in bygone days - Credit: Archant

The beginnings were menial - covering funerals, annual dinners, and courts in exotic places such as Terrington St Clement, where the only highlight was a memorable Malapropism by a prosecutor who said the defendant's claims should be regarded with a degree of circumcision (muffled titter around court moment).

But the next 40 years provided experiences and opportunities many people are not privileged to come across in their day jobs.

Meeting politicians and showbiz stars.

Driving steam railway locos, tanks and racing cars - and sailing a wherry.

Richard Batson career pictures - steering the wherry Albion

Richard Batson career pictures - steering the wherry Albion - Credit: Archant

Getting involved in rallying as a co-driver and support team member and reporting from the Safari Rally in Kenya

Travelling to the outskirts of New Orleans a year after Hurricane Katrina to see the ongoing devastation

Finding yourself, during a Nato trip, in to the middle of anti-American riots in Berlin two years before the wall came down.

Racing to the scenes of plane crashes at Wyton and Mildenhall.

Richard Batson career pictures - meeting a ventriloquism dummy (right)

Richard Batson career pictures - meeting a ventriloquism dummy (right) - Credit: Archant

Watching the raw power of the sea smash through Cromer pier, and inundate coastal villages - several times.

But for every adrenaline-fuelled 'hard news' moment there are many more everyday tales - and a chance to meet and tell the stories of ordinary and extraordinary people fighting campaigns and illness.

Every day is different. Every day has its challenges and constantly-changing priorities.

Never a dull moment - apart from many hours sitting in local council meetings - but spotting a nugget of news gold among the earnest debate about dog mess and allotments is the skill, and reward.

Bringing the time machine back to land in 2015, it is obvious that over those four decades the technology has changed - along with the pace of publication.

Where there was once an in-tray fed by 'snailmail' and the occasional fax, the advent of emails, and social media has brought a tsunami of incoming information.

And it is matched by a need to get stories 'out there' at speed too - before rival media organisations, or just the general public on Twitter and Facebook, beat you to your 'scoop.'

But the basic skills of a journalist remain the same - being a Nosey Parker with an ability to write concisely and who is interested in people, communities and wants to hold public organisations to account on behalf of the people they serve.

As I head off to the world of public relations long may it be so - and that the young journalists of today make the most of the brilliant and exciting opportunities ahead of them - and spot the great stories in my press releases.