Daryl Willcox on Mike Lowe

When I was
just 20 and first ventured into the world of newspapers, my vision of
the newspaper editor was in every way a caricature. A larger-thanlife
man with a northern accent, hair so short it was not obvious if it was
cut like that or the result of balding, trousers held in place by
braces and, of course, a brash manner.

Finding myself on the staff of
the Gloucester Citizen, I came face to face with my vision. When Mike
Lowe strode through the corridors of the St John’s Lane offices he may
as well have been wearing an “I’m the boss” t-shirt. And I’ll never forget those bright red braces.

I
started at the Citizen as a lowerthan- low temp – covering for the
editorial assistant – the result of my writing 20-odd letters to local
media begging for a job. I was kept on, I’m not quite sure why – maybe
because I only cost £84 a week.

My first formal introduction to
Mike involved a summons to his office. What did the editor want with
me? I was just the poor sod who chopped bits of paper off the Press
Association tele-printer and ran copy from the subs to the typesetters.

When I arrived in his office, Mike was in full newspaper editor mode.

Leaning
back in his chair behind a big desk, he said firmly: “I want you to get
my lunch.” He paused, but before I could speak, he added: “A quarter
pounder with cheese, large fries and 40 Dunhill.”

After this
initiation, Mike would occasionally lob a £20 note on my tiny desk next
to the subs and depart without conversation. I always knew what to do –
the order, a quarter pounder with cheese, large fries and 40 Dunhill,
never changed. I dreamt of the day that McDonald’s started selling
cigarettes, if only to simplify my chore.

Mike generated a lot of
respect very quickly at the Citizen – gossip on the subs desk was
always acerbic but never aimed at him – and my early attempts at
writing for the paper were, I assume, on the basis that they were
subsequently encouraged, met by his approval.

Although we were at
opposite ends of the editorial pecking order and our interactions were
limited, Mike’s influence on my experience at the Citizen is
indisputable. As it represented my grounding in journalism, which gave
me huge confidence as my career progressed, I have much to thank him
for.

Daryl Willcox, founder and chief executive, Daryl Willcox Publishing

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