Derek Tucker

A working week in life of Derek Tucker, editor of The Press and Journal, Aberdeen.

20.02.03

9am: Begin the day in traditional fashion – reading through all the papers and savouring the kick-start from a cup of tea. Then straight into a meeting with two of our design team to discuss progress on the new Saturday leisure supplement we are launching in March.

These are hectic and exciting times, with the launch of the supplement, Your Life, followed immediately by the relaunch of our two existing weekly supplements, Your Home and Your Car. Morning conference produces nothing too earth-shattering.

The newspaper sales director, Allan Smith, breezes into the office to announce that he’s had an idea. Time to sit down. We have just clinched a deal with the city’s exhibition centre which will see the main arena branded The Press and Journal Arena. One of the first events at the arena will be a major fashion show. I share with him my idea to have models parading down the catwalk in dresses printed with pages from our new supplements. His jaw drops.

Working sandwich lunch with the chief executive of one of our local authorities, where we discuss what we can do about the fishing industry threatened with extinction by EU cuts together with the problems in the farming industry and in tourism.

Back at the office, news editor Fiona McWhirr is excited about a tip-off we have had that there was a catalogue of police blunders leading up to the death of a man in a car crash.

An hour later, she returns with the news that the tip-off was wrong. No story.

Evening conference is a bit of a struggle. Still nothing major happening, and we fall back on the latest developments in the Iraq saga. Ah well, tomorrow’s another day.

21.02.03

Great excitement in the morning conference. Newspaper sales manager Allister Shacklock announces that, after weeks of being agonisingly close, we appear to have finally broken through last year’s sales figure.

The final figure next Tuesday, once returns have been deducted, will decide whether I now owe the sales people a lunch. Another fairly slow news day.

24.02.03

First day of the cover-price increase – up from 37p to 40p – and we’re waiting for news of how it has been received. It’s only the second increase in almost seven years and we have planned major promotions to help sustain the sale, so we’re confident that we’ll come through it relatively unscathed. A fairly busy weekend, news-wise, meant that we had plenty of good reading for day one.

Spent part of the morning fixing up a training session on investigative reporting for some of the less-experienced staff. One of the (many) drawbacks of the current reliance on university media courses for training journalists is that there seems to be little, if any, emphasis on investigation. Afternoon news conference takes place at 5.15pm. Good story about a fishing boat skipper who fell from his boat and had to swim a mile to shore. He’s OK, but they haven’t got a clue where his boat is. It was last seen heading north on auto-pilot at three knots with no-one on board.

25.02.03

Begin the day with an inquest. A story the newsdesk had been checking out without success for a couple of days appears in two of our competitors. I am decidedly unhappy and make my views known.

Elsewhere, word comes through of the first complaint from a reader about the price increase. Why has our price gone up when he can buy the Daily Mirror for 15p? We explain that the Mirror price is temporary and that our increase is only the second in seven years, and he goes away less unhappy than he was.

Another meeting to discuss the launch of The Press and Journal Arena. Five o’clock is awaited nervously, because that’s when the final figure for last week’s sale comes through. The news is good; returns were far lower than anticipated, giving us a base sale some 698 copies above last year. A small beer or two may well pass my lips tonight. Still no sign of the runaway fishing boat.

26.02.03

Terrible thing, old age. I can’t, for the life of me, remember doing it, but I must have agreed at some stage to judge the Local Newspaper of the Year category in one of the Scottish media awards. I arrive at work to find 72 newspapers sitting on my desk, together with marking sheets and a letter politely asking me to report back within a fortnight. That’s the weekend entertainment decided.

We are now three days into the price increase and there is still no sign of any significant reaction. The tips of my fingers are numb, having been starved of blood by being crossed for so long. The monthly meeting to brief all the departments on how we’re doing is very upbeat, and the only negative comment concerns car parking. Too many cars, too few spaces. Toy with the idea of offering (jokingly) to reduce salaries so people can’t afford cars, but decide against it.

The evening news conference throws up a spattering of strong, local stories, but tonight’s the Commons vote on Iraq and the likely rebellion by Labour MPs, and nothing on offer is going to be stronger than that. Unless, of course, they’ve found the fishing boat. No such luck.

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