Anne Pickles on Bernard Kaye

They
told me his bark was worse than his bite, which was a trainee journo’s
first lesson – trust no one; check everything. Bernard Kaye was a few
months short of retirement when he offered me my first job at the
Dewsbury Reporter, my local weekly.

It was the mid-70s.

With
no previous experience of newspapers beyond that of a reader, I assumed
Bernard to be the norm and guessed every reporter must go home crying
at the end of the day.

Had I been pitched against a year with Bernard, I’d have been begging Asda for a shelf-stacker’s job.

Bernard
Kaye barked like a Dobermann Pinscher, the spelling of which he made me
check seven times before accepting a par on a church pet show.

When he bit he was a Rottweiler – eight checks. He was a heart-stopping nit-picker, with whom no one argued.

Bernard was always right.

“There is equal pay and opportunity in journalism,” he told me at interview.

“Apply
yourself, work hard, pay attention to detail and one day you could earn
as much as £30 a week, which is a good wage for a woman. You’ll need to
buy a typewriter.”

It hadn’t occurred to me that a reporter being
ordered to buy a typewriter was like a bus driver being told to buy a
bus. Each trainee turned up on day one with a new typewriter and
learned how to fiddle the cost of replacement ribbons on expenses.

Bernard’s
career had been long and outstanding. We knew that because he told us
repeatedly. The Yorkshire Evening News and Yorkshire Post had figured
in there somewhere, as had some distinguished war reporting.

The
nervous new girl who always arrived an hour early to avoid the editor’s
wrath – he was a stickler for punctuality – was allowed not an inch.

Day three. Married couple dead in a mangled Lotus. Bernard had a scribbled address. “No one here yet. You’ll have to do. Take the bus.Talk to the family.”

Discovery that the young man and his wife had been friends was shattering.

Returning to the office, Bernard was waiting with customary sympathy.

“No time for tears. It would appear you have the front page lead.

Orphaned child? Pick up pictures? And watch your spelling. When you make a mistake the whole town sees it.”

I’d earned my first byline and learned lessons for life from barking, biting Bernard Kaye.

Anne Pickles is features editor for the Yorkshire Evening Post

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