Watching BBC One’s brilliant The Field of Blood last week was like stepping back in time for me. Stepping back to the Eighties when just like the characters in this gritty TV drama, I worked as a hard news reporter.
Adapted from Denise Mina’s The Dead Hour, The Field of Blood was set in Glasgow. But even so, the scruffy, paper-strewn newsroom, whisky drinking hacks and clattering typewriters were uncannily similar to the Fleet Street offices of my youth.
In those days we bashed out our stories on carbon paper, then rushed round the newsroom delivering instalments to the news desk, picture desk, subs’ desk and back bench in turn. Then we hurried back to type the next few paragraphs, usually with the news editor bellowing at us to hurry up (or something far ruder).
When reporters were sent out of the office to cover stories we had nothing as sophisticated as laptops and mobiles. Our equipment amounted to ring-bound notebooks, ballpoint pens and, with no Google to rely on for research, pink envelopes stuffed full of yellowing library cuttings.
When the newsroom took delivery of its first mobile phone in 1986 it was the size of a brick and weighed a ton. This precious item was assigned to the reporter on the biggest story of the day and mislaying it was a sackable offence.
The rest of the time we relied on good old-fashioned telephone boxes – which was fine except most of the time they’d been vandalised, smelled of urine or were out of order (usually all three).
Not only that, we had to fight tooth and nail with rivals from other newspapers to get to the phone first. And even if you ran at breakneck speed and beat the entire press pack it always took a minute to get your breath back, think of an intro and make any sense whatsoever to the copy takers. Those were the days…