Geoff Martin

02.09.04

North London’s notorious school runs haven’t yet returned, making the journey to the office as pleasurable as anything can be at this time of day.

With John Humphrys and Jim Naughtie for company, what is normally a 40-minute crawl is done in half the time. I tend to shuffle between Radio 4 and Five Live for my introduction to the day, but Naughtie’s Republican Convention reports are unmissable.

Had briefly considered biking it, to help save the planet. I’ve had the same conversation with myself every morning for 20 months. The bike never wins.

Arrive at the office to find that yet again I’ve been beaten by Highbury & Islington sports editor Doug Gratton. I suspect he has mastered the art of time travel between Blackheath and Swiss Cottage. In between putting the finishing touches to the sports pages and running his eye over former Arsenal striker Alan Smith’s weekly column, he’s even managed to sign off the point of sale bills for the entire series.

It’s press day: putting in a couple of late nights after the Bank Holiday has paid off and we’re in good shape for the midday deadlines.

Writing of the Slough Observer, a paper I once worked for, John Betjeman concluded that all human life could be found within its pages. This week we’ve got a brutal rape of a 14-year-old on page one, a vicious attack on a female traffic warden, a furious and seemingly interminable row over the siting of a bus stand in South End Green, a rock band stripped of its gear by thieves in Camden Town, and a campaign to force the Home Office to review the case of an Iranian refugee who has been living in limbo for 10 years while paper-shufflers decide what to do about him. Gael Garcia Bernal of The Motorcycle Diaries fame is interviewed in our features section.

Even the mandatory 100th birthday photo call has a sting in the tail. The lady in question tells a remarkable tale of fleeing the holocaust, freeing her husband from a concentration camp and reuniting with the son she was forced to abandon to the mercy of the Kindertransport.

A story on David Soul taking out his UK citizenship came via a chat with Haringey Mayor Sheila Peacock … and she can chat for Britain. It makes page 3.

03.09.04

As names go, that of Red Williams conjures up visions of a US superhero, but in fact he is in charge of syndication for Archant. Red (so-called, I believe, because he supports Sunderland) is like a dog with a bone when he gets the merest sniff of a saleable story.

He’s always interested in celeb stuff, and is keen this week on David Soul and the quirky story about the European Yoga Championships coming to Hampstead. Where else? I have an early meeting with Archant London deputy managing director Garry Matthews, to discuss progress on our Wood&Vale edition (St John’s Wood and Maida Vale, to the uninitiated).

Then its up to St Albans, another epicentre of the Archant empire, to discuss The News, an imaginative foray aimed at commuters travelling between Hertfordshire and London.

Just time for a “way of the world” chat with regional editorial director Richard Thomson, and then back to London for an advance screening of a wannabe blockbuster in the West End.

04.09.04

My e-mails are always copious, and the weekend is a good time to delete the inducements to enlarge certain parts of my anatomy.

I spend a lot of time in the correspondence baskets, a habit I developed when I arrived in Hampstead and didn’t know what was around the next corner.

We usually run 10 pages across our four editions. The Ham&High Series hits the streets on Friday morning, and it isn’t unusual to receive reader responses to stories as early as 7.30am.

05.09.04

Hear on the grapevine that an old sparring partner, Craig McKenzie, has departed the Mirror’s palatial offices in Belfast.

Wonder what the sports guys will do with their space since World Cup qualifiers mean there is no Premier League football. Perhaps Thierry Henry will break a leg playing for France to give the other Premier contenders a chance.

06.09.04

Start the week with our Monday morning editorial pow-wow. I’m impressed by the story of a school governor who is sleeping rough at Tower Bridge to raise money for a homeless children’s charity, and sign him up to do a diary of his night in cardboard city.

New man on the block is web editor Chris Smith. A week into his arrival and we have a discussion about the intricacies of web design. Refreshingly, it isn’t like conversing with someone in a foreign language.

07.09.04

Spend the day away from the office on management business.

08.09.04

Tom Collins, a rival editor in my Belfast days, had an interesting theory that newsrooms ran better when editors were absent. As if to prove his point, acting news editor Piers Eady has a bagful of stories competing for space.

Alastair Campbell, who lives on our patch, tells us that contrary to what we’re reading in the nationals, he isn’t interested in standing as an MP.

A robber nicknamed ‘Gold Tooth’, who terrorised gays on Hampstead Heath, has been sent down for six years and Detective Chief Inspector Clive Driscoll thanks the Ham&High for its help in the case. Reporter Luke David came face to face with the villain while investigating violence on the Heath and his description helped to nail him.

Leaked documents reveal that less than a year after a £3.5m revamp of its maternity wing, the Royal Free Hospital has been warned that its leading maternity and childcare specialists may be relocated.

And while our rivals are using official channels to try to find out why Camden’s parking policy has gone bananas, we’re meeting secretly with the people who know – whistleblowers on the inside track of the company Camden hires to dish out the fines.

It’s 9pm, but there’s still time for a tipoff that ex-Westlife star Brian McFadden tackled a mugger at Camden Lock.

Tune in to Five Live just in time to hear that Thierry Henry helped France to a 2-0 win over the Faroe Islands … and left the field with both legs intact.

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