Jon Harris

26.12.02

8am Skeleton staff of myself, the office trainee Dan Maudsley and photographer Andy Kelvin open up, nursing the after-effects of Christmas dinner. Maudsley makes the regular round of calls to the Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Lancashire police forces plus various ambulance services and fire brigades, but the only items on offer are a seemingly endless list of road traffic accidents.

The papers are also brimming with adverts so it looks like a typically quiet Boxing Day in store. A possible story with pictures about a claustrophobic pony attracts little interest.

However we still have to find a minimum of 10 stories to file every day to our associate media firm 2dayUK which has contracts to file news to Vodaphone and Virgin among others. The news stories on our website need updating. Road traffic accidents never seemed more newsworthy.

 

27.12.02

8am News still suffering its regular post-Christmas blues. A former model being menaced by a cyber stalker after she sets up an anti-stalking website for other models is a possible. Pictures are very good. We ignore comment from one news reporter: "Why doesn’t she just change her e-mail address?"

Then at 10am there is news of a tragedy. A young Stockport man hit about the head with a pint glass on board a bus dies in hospital after being in a coma for 12 days – murder inquiry launched. We had already helped with police appeal by filing stories about the attack while the victim was still alive, but little had featured in the national press.

As Greater Manchester Police want maximum publicity, we duly update our previous copy, complete with a collect picture and comments from the family, and file it. Newsdesks show more interest.

At noon, a tabloid newspaper orders a reporter and photographer to do a "jingle tills" special at the Trafford Centre. It’s a regular annual assignment – find out what January sales bargain hunters are after and how much they are spending.

News then breaks that Amanda Holden and Les Dennis have split up. We immediately file a selection of Holden pictures, snapped by our photographers when she was filming TV drama Cutting It in Manchester.

 

28.12.02

The bus murder makes two page leads plus another column piece in another paper. But tragedy is to strike Greater Manchester again this Christmas. An Asian cab driver is stabbed to death in Oldham – the town hit by race riots last year.

Police believe it could be racially motivated or a row over a fare. The duty reporter, Martin Petty, and photographer Chris Whittle turn out at the murder scene, obtain a name for the dead man from the cab offices then during the afternoon track down and speak to his family.

They are too upset to comment at that time but we agree to their request to return the next day by appointment.

I take down copy from the duty reporter on my home PC and duly file it to the Sunday press.

29.12.02

Cabbie murder published in the News of the World, Sunday Mirror and Daily Sunday Star. Petty obtains an interview with the cab driver’s family for Monday’s papers but the relatives are too upset to release a collect picture.

An account of the interview is filed to the newspapers but without a picture, the prospect of publicity is bleak. One of our Amanda Holden pictures makes The Mail on Sunday.

30.12.02

Asian cab driver makes a page lead in the Daily Mail with our picture of the murder scene plus a basement piece in The Times but little else. But now the family of the Asian cab driver agree to release a collect picture. More reaction to the murder in Oldham plus news that CCTV cameras are to be installed in cabs is included in a fresh story. Will the picture be enough to get that extra bit of publicity?

At 11am the week of tragedy on our patch continues as the father of the Stockport man beaten up on the bus appears at a police press conference to make a tearful plea for help to catch the killer.

Due to skeleton staff being occupied at Oldham, I make a rare appearance away from my desk to cover the press conference, along with a photographer.

Like Oldham, this reporting work is being done speculatively. We will get paid only if it makes the paper – no matter how much spadework we do.

Late in the afternoon, a Sunday newspaper orders us to pick up a marriage certificate in Manchester city centre. We end up collecting it in Trafford. Another Amanda Holden picture pops up in the Mirror.

 

31.12.02

Asian cab driver makes The Sun while the bus killing appeal gets into The Daily Telegraph. We learn police have now arrested three people over the bus tragedy but it appears national interest in both murders has petered away.

It looks like a quiet end to the year. A suggestion we stake out a trendy bar in Manchester to catch a paparazzi picture of Europe’s fattest gospel singer falls on deaf ears.

 

01.01.03

It’s all quiet throughout the day as the region nurses a hangover. But late at night news breaks of yet another tragedy – this time it’s a young mother and son from Hale, Cheshire, who are killed in a road accident in South Africa. Another family is left devastated. Happy new yearÉ             n

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