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My Publishing Life – David Whaley

In the first of a new occasional series, David Whaley, editor of the Oldham Evening Chronicle, answers our questions about his life in publishing.

By David Whaley

My Publishing Life – David Whaley

Q: How did you get where you are today?

A: Wanted to be a journalist from the age of twelve after my Uncle (Len Whaley, Dagenham Post) took me to Old Trafford and sat in press box for League Cup semi-final replay where Bobby Moore saved a penalty!

Life has turned full circle as I started at the Oldham Chronicle as a junior in 1979. A brief stay at Lincolnshire Echo in 1985 (I was at the Bradford Disaster) was followed by ten roles in fifteen years at the bustling Birmingham Post and Mail - including editor of the Saturday night sports paper – The Sports Argus – in its centenary year in 1997. Was an assistant editor on the Evening mail when returned to Oldham in 2000 to be deputy editor to first news editor Jim Williams. Became editor in 2010 on his retirement and MD in 2013.

Q: What is your typical media day?

A: In the office at 6.30am latest and paper off-stone by 9.15am. We still work 'live' and do change the lead on a regular basis. Morning editorial conference at 10am (sort overnights) and 2pm for updates. Rest of day liaising with other departments and outside meetings. PA, my mobile and Radio 4 keep me up to speed.

Out a couple of nights a week at events.

Former Manchester Evening News editor once gave me a piece of advice: Spend 50 per cent of your time hands-on and 50 per cent talking to the people of influence in your circulation area.

You need to know what is going on in your patch.

Q: What is the secret to a happy working life?

A: Don't take yourself too seriously. Since throat cancer in 2014 and losing my vocal cords to the life-saving surgeon in 2015, I treasure every minute. I love working in newspapers. Anyone who doesn't enjoy their job – find a different one!

You are in the working environment for a big part of your life and whilst hard work can be rewarding, you have to find time to have a laugh.

Q: How do you see the sector evolving?

A: A very important period for newspapers. I believe alternative funding models will be needed to keep a newspaper voice in towns across the country. The loss of newspapers would be devastating for the towns concerned. We don't want to let some of the 'lunatics' on social media set the news agenda.

Where newspapers were once cash cows, they now need support and we have looked at other revenue streams supporting the brand that is so trusted within the community.

Of course, digital and the way news is now consumed has and is going to change dramatically but print still has a place for considered reflection and analysis.

Breaking news is a whole different ball game.

Q: Who has particularly influenced you?

A: The aforementioned Len Whaley and Jim Williams shaped my early determination – the latter also taught me to drink. At Birmingham, Ian Dowell and Tony Dickens drove me on. In life, my wife Wendy is my soul mate, my family crucial and surgeon Professor Jarred Homer the man I shake the hand of every time we meet.

I admire people in all walks of life who do not expect everything to be given them on a plate but who are prepared to work long and hard. To paraphrase the great Gary Player: The harder I work and practice the luckier I get!

Q: What advice would you give someone starting out?

A: Always keep learning and your mind open to change. And believe in yourself. At 25, I set goals to be sports editor at 30, deputy editor at 40 and editor at 50 and achieved all three.

At my very first interview, I told the editor I eventually wanted his job because someone of my generation would be doing it. On the day I first sat in the editor's chair, the phone went and a voice said: "It took you ?@'?// long enough." High praise indeed.

Oh, and don't hold grudges. Life is too short - and tell people when they have done a good job!

Q: How do you relax outside work?

A: Don't drink during the week or at home but enjoy meals out and a gin or three at weekend with friends and our grown-up children. Three step grandchildren make all the worries go away (but boy do they tire you out). And I leave the mobile phone in the car for a round of golf (briefly got to 9 twice but now languishing at 12, still hoping). The world can wait. The clubs come on holiday too.

Q: In an alternate life, what would you have done?

A: So lucky that I have been able to do what I dreamed of doing all those years ago. Is it really 38 years in newspapers?

Played amateur football to a good standard (not good enough to be paid) and coached junior football to Level 2 for 25 years so would have liked to have had a more professional influence there.

Did consider throwing it all in and going on the cruise ships to sing Elton John and Neil Diamond songs... that would have been a bad career move for someone who now has no vocal cords!