There I go again with my selective quotes from a review, but I’m over the moon with Gavin Docherty’s assessment of my book and the prominence he gave it in today’s edition of the Scottish Daily Express. Of course, I’m ignoring the bits where he gently takes me to task for not saying more about the “painful sacking” of presenters and for not directing more anger towards former BBC bosses. He suggests I had every right to bite the hands that fed me “right up to the armpits”. That did make me laugh out loud.
I’m particularly delighted to be named in the same article as one of my heroes – the actor, Ed Asner, whose TV portrayal of grumpy newspaper editor Lou Grant was one of the reasons I pursued a career in journalism. I have a vivid memory of a particular episode which ended with hard-bitten Lou congratulating one of his young reporters for a job well done and offering to buy him a drink. But on the way to the bar, the reporter notices an old woman struggling in the darkened streets with an odd assortment of luggage so he ask for a rain check on the drink so that he can pursue this possible story. Always be curious, was the lesson I took from that, and always be on the lookout for a story.
Earlier this week I was being interviewed on a fantastic community radio station called CamGlen Radio, based in Rutherglen. The presenter, Cat Gibson, was very enthusiastic about my book and revealed that she had been reading it on the bus and laughing out loud. I’m hearing that kind of comment a lot, which is gratifying, but the needy writer in me always wants to ask which bit they found funny. I don’t, though, just in case they are howling hysterically at one of my serious passages.
During the interview, Cat told me that my old Moray Firth Radio colleague (and now music journalist) Jim Gellatly was mentoring the CamGlen volunteers and teaching them about studio etiquette and how to ‘talk up to time’. She asked me what I thought made a good radio broadcaster. “Authenticity”, was my answer. People relate to presenters who sound like they live in the same world as themselves and whose issues and observations ring true. I often tell students about the time Radio Scotland’s Bill Whiteford was interviewing the BBC business correspondent about the Morrisons’ takeover of the Safeway supermarket chain. At the end of the interview, Bill observed that he didn’t like shopping in Morrisons because they gave you those see-through plastic carrier bags and he didn’t want people seeing what he had bought. I remember listening to that in the car and nodding with agreement. More than that, though, Bill , through that comment, had revealed that he didn’t just live in a radio studio. When six o’clock came, they didn’t pop him into a cupboard until the next day. He lived in the real world and he went shopping like the rest of us.
Similarly, in my short interview with Cat, she revealed that she travelled by bus and that she was a parent. Her presentation style was warm, friendly and, yes, authentic. No need for a posh BBC voice or a fake mid-Atlantic accent, like the teenage me used to put on when I was running a pretend radio station in my bedroom.
But that’s another story.