Thursday, 2 January 2014

Captain Europe finds a home

 I begin this 2014 still on somewhat uncertain ground professionally, so it's with a certain amount of nostalgia mixed with pride (and a teeny-bit of retrospective horror) that I share with you the chapter of my memoir which describes the gloriously random beginning of my 17-year journalism career.

Captain Europe had been the name of my anonymous (and incomprehensible) satirical column for the Edinburgh University student newspaper (Student). But the term presciently described what became a theme in my professional life : because of my foreignness and initial uselessness I was put to work on something 'international' and forgotten about. And then, like a miracle, news, foreign news, found me.

The chapter is a sober, honest, warts-and-all assessment of my inclinations and talents and sheer bloody good luck. Reader, I'm not a natural born reporter, due to my shyness and instinctive dislike for, I don't know how to put this, new stuff happening.

Read how I coped with journalism school, dodged reporting on Lady Diana's death. Read about the complex hierarchies and epic power struggles in the wild animal kingdom that is a newspaper newsroom, in an era where - younger readers avert your eyes now - there was no internet and Google and stuff, just highly fallible people and paper files full of cuttings.

As this account was written more than ten years ago, when a thing called journalism still recognisably existed as separate from entertainment and when newspapers were not generally considered an endangered species yet, I didn't even reflect upon the multitude of technological changes that have occurred since that first day at the European Newspaper.

It's a memory preserved in aspic, of a time unaware if its own growing irrelevance. It deals mainly with human types and human emotions, not systems and methods. It is not an historical document in any way. I hope you like it.

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