Gregg Fray

20.01.05

IT is noon, and a district reporter calls to tell me of the region’s eighth murder in 10 weeks.

A man is found lying at the bottom of a flight of stairs with a stab wound through his heart.

We
move quickly – one journalist hammering the telephones and the district
reporter out knocking on doors and getting a collect picture within a
couple of hours.

Then we decide to use the story on an inside, left-hand page.

I
have worked in Liverpool for the last four years, first as the
Liverpool Echo crime reporter, then as assistant news editor, and I
know only too well how good a news patch the city can be.

Not everyone wants to read about murder all the time and this one’s a bit scummy.

Everybody
knows we do not yet have a splash for tomorrow, so it is all hands to
the pump. A few longer-term offdiary jobs are close to coming to
fruition so I am trying to force them to come through before afternoon
conference at 4.30pm.

Three new reporters have started in the
last fortnight, so I have been setting them off with ideas and solving
the usual new-starter problems along the way. I discover one has not
yet been told where the toilet is and make a note on a scrap of paper
to get somebody to create a fact sheet for new reporters. I put the
scrap of paper in my diary with lots of other scraps of paper. Sorted.

Conference
time arrives and a number of options have arisen. One came from a bland
meeting at Everton Football Club about healthy eating where the club’s
spokesman told us that the club is planning to ban smoking at Goodison
Park – making it the first non-smoking stadium in the country.

We
have a page one lead and a number of other late breaking stories fall
into place around it. At 8pm I leave for a few pints with other
journalists and talk about what a talented bunch we all are.

21.01.05

The
main talking point while I drive to work with a mild hangover is the
subject of binge-drinking – the government is putting the finishing
touches to its new 24-hour drinking legislation. From early in the day
I decide to engineer a local splash on the subject.

We set about
creating a news special on the situation in our patch and discover,
through Liverpool’s licensing department, that 75 per cent of licensed
premises are to cash in on the new laws – many more than the
government’s estimate of 65 per cent. A suitably aloof, in-depth
article is under way.

At 11.30am, we have the daily morning
conference. After a five-minute cigarette break and chat with
reporters, it is noon and time for the heads of department weekly
forward planning meeting.

The rest of the day is spent juggling
breaking leads as they come in but none of these beat the planned
splash as an important issue. I leave work at 7pm and go into town with
a gang of mates to experience the effects of binge drinking first hand.

24.01.05

Monday
morning is traditionally the toughest time for most morning paper
journalists. The stocks and stand-bys have been used up over the
weekend and the inevitable, miserable, feeling accompanies you to work.

Take
comfort in a full English breakfast from the canteen, eaten from a
polystyrene tray at the news desk, which has been left in a disgusting
state by the weekend staff.

Our city editor tells me of a scandal
over a fraud investigation into a huge development in Liverpool and I
know we are set up for the next day.

25.01.05

At
11am I get word of a murder enquiry from a police contact and send a
reporter. Even though it is a domestic, it is in a core Daily Post area
in a posh part of town. I get another call telling me the man who has
been arrested is a doctor and the dead woman was his house-keeper.

A
second reporter gets put on the case and we set about making this a
double page spread. We beat the competition to get names of the accused
and his wife, who is also a doctor.

We are short of pictures but have a brilliant story, which writes beautifully.

Today is our reporters’ forward planning meeting.

At 2pm we
gather in the canteen to shout above clattering plates about the main
news events for the next fortnight and catch up on off-diary jobs
people have been sent on. A few decent ideas are well on their way to
working out and I feel comfortable about the week ahead.

The murder has kept three other potential splashes off the front and
everybody is working flat-out by 5pm. I prepare to work into the
evening, ordering a curry and chips from the canteen and cancelling my
home-cooked meal with my girlfriend.

26.01.05

We
carried a pre-piece in this morning’s paper about Liverpool council
being set to approve Britain’s first red light zone. From early, this
was always going to be the splash.

A backgrounder is started by
the chief reporter, which we are planning as a spread. Early reaction
is already coming in to what we expect will be another historic vote in
Liverpool.

The chief reporter breaks off to go to a planning
meeting at which an announcement is expected over the future of two
controversial high-rise developments, which have been a talking point
for months in the city.

I ring contacts trying to secure pictures of the doctor and the dead cleaner.

A
reporter has gone straight to court where the doctor is charged with
murder. Daily Post photographer Eddie Barford snatches him through the
window of the prison van and the fluke image is brilliant. Again, by
11am things are shaping up for a good paper tomorrow.

The
prostitute decision is not expected until after 9pm so I head home and
await a phone call. I have already squirreled away an alternative
splash in case by some freak occurrence the council decides to go
against its plans for the legal prostitution zones. At 9.15pm I get the
call to say I needn’t have bothered and I get an early night.

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