Top political journalists advise Harlow students: ‘Be nosy and demand answers’


HARLOW College opened its doors to two heavyweights in the field of political journalism this month (December).

Daily Mirror editor Kevin Maguire, and editor of The Daily Mail, Andrew Pierce, have each carved a very different path to the same destination, with Maguire’s strong Labour views balanced perfectly against ‘@toryboy’ Pierce’s proud Conservative affiliation.

Watching political debates or opinion based programming on television is, for the most part, incredibly hard to digest. A platform for impassioned and stubborn political mouthpieces to spout venom at each other at an ever increasing volume. The warmth that radiates from these two old friends is a gentle reminder that fiercely opposing views can live in (relative) harmony.

‘I locked Kevin in a room with my full scale model of Thatcher, and told him that midnight is when her ghost will appear’, said Pierce, clearly revelling in Maguire’s mock discomfort at the memory.

Whilst gently bouncing jokes off of one another, they managed to effortlessly paint the journalism trade as thoroughly rewarding and exciting enough to quench the biggest of appetites.

‘People talk about the pressures of our job. And I think, come on, pressure is a cleaner getting up every morning at 4am. I can’t think of anyone who has as interesting a job as mine, the job is as easy or as difficult as you want to make it,’ said Kevin.

‘I agree. And I get the same excitement from my job now as I did when I first started out thirty years ago, and I don’t think there are many people in jobs who can say that,’ said Pierce shortly after, quick to capitalise on a rare, mutually agreed viewpoint.

A testament to their skills as reporters, the talk was thorough and felt much shorter than its hour and a half duration, covering almost every thinkable topic and even answering important questions that no one had asked.

‘I think the loss of local newspapers is incredibly sad and distressing. They are the backbone of any community’ said Pierce lamentably, ‘when I first joined the Birmingham Mail it had a print of 350,000. The last time I visited, it was down to 40,000’.

The topic of print journalism dying is important to any NCTJ student, with the changing face of journalism being something society seems to be naturally adjusting to, whilst the industry seems less natural in transitioning.

‘There are countless online newspapers cropping up every day, credible ones where you can learn your craft and send in your stories,’ added Pierce, seeming to sense the concern in the room and trying to cauterize it efficiently, ‘but you should all be supporting local newspapers anywhere you go.’

Although both men touched briefly on the perils facing print journalism, the mark they left on a room full of aspiring journalists was of hope, assuring them that they were on the first rungs of a ladder that could carry them as high as their own aspirations.

And every piece of advice given was constructive and sincere.

‘You have got to be nosy…and always, always, punch up, and demand answers’, said Kevin with conviction. ‘They don’t have to answer but you can demand them! And keep demanding them, because there really is no better way to make a living.’

Adam Spartley

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