Court room chuckles

December 11, 2008
ONE thing that often amazes me about court reporting is the amount of humour on show.

OK, I know Britain is a witty place to live in where banter and jokes play a key part in daily life…but surely court would be exempt from such niceties.

The first time I noticed such joviality was this summer when I covered the Gary Hardy drugs trial.

Throughout the case members of the jury, the lawyers, the judge and even various defendants including Gary Hardy himself would break out in chuckles.

On one memorable occasion the whole court roared in laughter as a witness with a good sense of humour moved away from giving evidence into a near comedy routine, until he was halted in his tracks by the smirking judge who realised the seriousness of the court setting.

On a daily basis I was always left suprised at the happy nature of Gary Hardy, who regularly laughed and joked with security staff guarding him in the dock, despite the seriousness of the charges he faced.

Well I know if that had been me I’d have gone into a shell of self-pity and refused to talk to anyone.

And yet again the presence of court humour became apparent during the closing stages of the Peter Smith murder trial this week.

Whilst in full swing of summing up the evidence, Judge His Honour Stephen Kramer QC momentarily lost his trail of thought and also his notes much to the amusement of the jury and lawyers.

Earlier the judge and prosecutor Peter Joyce QC were both struck down by prolonged coughing fits to the general titters of all in the court room.

It doesn’t take much to make us laugh. Yes, Britain really is a funny old place to live in.

A long long day

December 5, 2008

WHEN I came into journalism I knew it wouldn’t be a straight forward 9am to 5pm job….but I must admit I never expected a day like I had yesterday.

 

I arose from my slumbers to set off for work at 7am with the not too pleasant thought in the back of my head that I would not be returning home until midnight. Yes, that’s right! midnight.

 

The day promised to be a busy action-packed day, taking in a murder trial at Nottingham Crown Court, before being rounded off with reporting on the delights of Mansfield Town’s latest attempts to claim three points.

 

And that is of course not forgetting all the rest of my daily workload.

 

The day began ominously after it took me the best part of three hours to get to Nottingham Crown Court from my West Yorkshire home thanks to the delights of the snow, slush and the driver who interestingly decided to crash his car into a lamppost. (Well done Mr Driver)

 

But despite the long, tiring hours I have to admit the day gave me a real buzz and a sense of achievement.

 

It felt like being at the real cutting edge of news, whizzing around the Mansfield and Ashfield area collecting the important news and talking to the people that set the agenda.

 

Crown court reporting is fast-paced and above all else it is exciting. Everyone wants to read about a murder. It is dramatic, tense and thrilling….and reporting on cases such as this is just the same.

 

And let us face it, reporting on football….well that’s not work now is it. I love my football, in fact I actually came into the industry because of my love of sport and desire to be a football writer. So being at the game last night was actually a pleasure and a lot of fun.

 

OK so I’m not saying I want to have a 17 hour working day all the time, but it’s definitely not as bad as it sounds.

Road rage

November 28, 2008

IN England we seem to spend half our lives stuck in traffic.

Stuck forever twiddling our thumbs at the traffic lights, stuck playing with the car radio, arranging our CD’s once again to try and defeat the evil forces of boredom caused by yet another traffic snarl up.

It’s a pain. And here in Ashfield the pain never ends, it seems to now be a daily blight for the good motorists of the district, who are forever stuck gridlocked.

Sutton has been a living nightmare this week as Outram Street grinds to a halt thanks to the High Pavement roadworks.

It is bad enough when a delivery truck blocks Outram Street for half an hour creating more tailbacks without this adding to the misery.

And we all know about the Kirkby traffic chaos with all routes into the town becoming a living nightmare any time its rush hour. Let’s face it, If you’re planning to drive from The Ashfield pub into the town past the Ashfield School is probably advisable to leave four days to ensure you actually get there on time.

Is it really any wonder businesses do not see Sutton and Kirkby as attractive propositions? Is it any wonder Sutton and Kirkby are dying towns mocked by many people? not for me it isn’t.

Unless the infrastructure in the two town’s are sorted out and major investment made by the relevant council authorities Sutton and Kirkby will arrest their sad decline.

So come on Ashfield District Council and Nottinghamshire County Council, sort out this mess once and for all.

A world of opportunity

November 6, 2008

THURSDAYS used to be a dull day in Chad land for my goodself and a day where nothing much happened other than the delights of a lunch-time session at the pub with the work chums. It has now rapidly become my favourite day of the week.

For on Thursdays I now present Stags Talk, Chad’s weekly podcast on all things Mansfield Town FC, which is a role I greatly enjoy and would not miss for the world.

Putting together the show isn’t too difficult with preperation being the key. Prepare well and a good show surely awaits, but prepare badly and I can more than likely await personal embarrassment at the hands of the unforgiving studio microphone.

The show begins life with my goodself trawling the Chad website for all the stories making the news at Field Mill that particular week, before I knock up a script for the panel to follow in the studio.

The script is a life-saver for me and helps me as the presenter keep control of the show, moving from topic to topic in an orderly and well structured fashion.

Oh and It also helps me to avoid awkward lapses in my memory, where I begin dreaming about what delights I’m having for tea before suddenly realising silence has descended and the other two panelists are staring blankly at me and wondering what we’re supposed to be discussing.

The show then ends its life as a fun and enjoyable debate of the comings and goings at the club and is surely a must-listen to podcast for all the club’s fans, well I think so anyway!

From a personal point of view Stags Talk is not only tremendous fun and a great chance to talk about football but also a wonderful opportunity to broaden my skills and embrace the new media and its endless possibilities.

Who knows one day I could have my own sports show on the BBC, but if I do I ‘ll certainly owe a big thanks to Chad for starting the ball rolling.

It’s a celebs life

November 1, 2008

SOME days working as a journalist at a weekly newspaper in a small town is quite frankly as dull as dishwater. On other days it’s one of the best jobs in the world . . . well I think so anyway.

 

And luckily for me today was one of those brilliant days, a day where I got to meet a true celebrity and a day where my friends said “wow, I wish I had your job.”

 

The celebrity in question was Olympic gold medalist Dame Kelly Holmes as she opened the town’s impressive new Lammas Leisure Centre.

 

And I’m pleased to report Dame Kelly is not just a famous athlete and television celebrity, she’s also a thoroughly charming and delightful lady into the bargain. It really was a pleasure to meet her.

 

From a personal point of view meeting famous people is one of the great benefits of my job. So far in my short career in Chad land I have been fortunate enough to meet many sporting icons.

 

In my near five years on the rag I’ve interviewed a variety of football managers and players including Gareth Southgate and Billy Davies as well as athletes Roger Black, Lord Seb Coe and of course Dame Kelly.

 

Oh and lets not forget Becky Adlington, the pride of Mansfield and the best female swimmer over 800m in the world….EVER!!! What an honour it was to report on her success and have a place on her home-coming bus.

 

So as you see it’s not always never-ending anti-social problems, school clubs and tedious council meetings for us local media hacks, sometimes good stuff happens as well.

Making the most of Ashfield’s natural delights

October 30, 2008

MOVES to hand Annesley Colliery back into the hands of the community is excellent news for the Ashfield public.

The iconic colliery sits as a symbol of the district’s once-proud heritage, used by dog walkers and nature lovers and a site that could be used to far greater potential with the right management and financial investment.

As life continues to get more hectic and stressful the need for spots of seclusion and relaxation grows in importance.

Ashfield is currently blessed with a number of excellent beauty spots, including Brierley Forest Park and the vast surrounding countryside. Annesley Colliery could become the crowning jewel.

With correct investment the colliery complex could become a fantastic nature reserve, bringing new tourists and much-needed revenue into the district to ramble and enjoy the wide variety of wildlife who now call the colliery home.

I, for one, hope that this ambitious plan eventually realises its full potential. Let us all hope Annesley Colliery is about to thrive once again.

The progression of Ashfield

October 16, 2008

AS the so-called credit crunch continues to bite harder and harder many local council authorities are now feeling the pinch and cutting back.

But here in Ashfield, this worrying trend has been well and truly reversed with the successful completion of Sutton’s new £16m Lammas Leisure Centre.

The state-of-the-art building features a ‘wishlist’ of fantastic facilities for the district’s budding sports stars and will provide a lasting sports legacy in the area for many generations to come.

The sports centre now sits proudly in Sutton and is a great credit to all involved in the project, who showed amazing vision, drive and determination in seeing the 18-month project through.

And of course the leisure centre will provide a series of positive knock-on effects, helping boost Ashfield’s seriously flagging health levels and give the district’s youngsters something positive to turn their attentions to.

It is only fitting that someone of Dame Kelly Holmes’s national fame will open the centre to the public on the 1st November.

So once again, well done to everyone who helped pull the project off. Let’s hope it is the first of many positive improvements to hit Ashfield in the coming years.

A media scrum

August 12, 2008

WORKING on a local newspaper is not all about neighbourhood disputes, council stories and run-of-the-mill issues, occasionally we get the pleasure of working on massive national stories.

And this week it was my turn to be part of the national media scrum thanks to golden girl Rebecca Adlington’s belting swim in the Beijing Olympics.

The swim will never be forgotten by Becky, and covering the event will also not be forgotten by me for a long time.

I awoke at 7am to a text message from the deputy editor asking me to go to the Adlington house to get all the reaction, it was clear it was not just a normal day and a normal story.

Once at the family house, the joy felt by Becky’s parents and sisters was clear for all to see. It was also something that was impossible not to get caught up in as the delight transferred to the assembled media.

To be honest I love sport at the best of times, but to work on a story of this importance to the nation’s sporting aspirations was a true pleasure. It  was also a novel experience having to fight for time with the television big wigs for a few precious moments with the family.

It is also quite an interesting experience to cover a story and then see how the rival media organisations go about doing the same task, do they have the same interviews? the same angle? and could I have done anything better?

Hopefully I will experience the same enjoyment as well as Becky later this week when she claims more Olympic gold.

Courtroom coverage…the juggling act

June 25, 2008

ONE of the hardest aspects of covering major court cases is the balancing act between staying in the courtroom and getting back to the office.

With so much potential news stories and background material being unearthed on a daily basis it is often both easy and tempting to stay for long periods in court, at the cost of the day-to-day stories needed to fill the rest of the paper.

Personally I find myself worrying that if I don’t stay in court as much as possible I will miss some crucial element of the proceedings.

But the truth of the matter is it is pretty much impossible to be in court all the time, it is pretty much impossible to report on everything that happens and it is pretty much impossible to sit and concentrate on every detail every day for nine weeks.

And despite spending nearly every day in court for the last three weeks I still managed to miss a major report on a witness claiming he was paid to guard £30m worth of drugs, so I guess the morale of the story is, you can’t do it all.

But it was indeed rather frustrating to see that particular report on the front of the Nottingham Evening Post and realise I had missed out on a gem of a story, despite all my recent efforts.

Really, all that you can do as a reporter is manage your time effectively, covering the early parts of the trial when the main details and all the juicy facts are uncovered and then dip in and out of the hearing as and when an important event or witness enters the court arena.

It is a difficult juggling act, but a skill that becomes much easier as the trial slowly grinds on and on.

Courtroom drama . . . it’s better than Taggart

June 13, 2008

Major court reporting is without doubt the most exciting part of being a journalist and better than any television drama.

Watching the Gary Hardy trial unfold at Nottingham Crown court has been a real pleasure for me and certainly better than anything Taggart or Poirot can serve up.

Looking at the case from the eyes of just a normal man on the street the evidence dished up has been gripping, thrilling, emotional and tense. The future lives of all those involved has already been changed forever or will soon be changed and it is hard not to be caught up in that drama.

As a journalist the case is the perfect professional opportunity for me to work on a major story and to stamp my own personal authority on the Chad coverage.

Even at this early stage it is clear there is a virtually unlimited number of stories flowing from the proceedings, and while it is a big challenge to cover all that goes on each day it is certainly hugely exciting to be at the cutting edge of journalism.

The days have been long and intense and my patience and concentration has often been stretched (along with my wrist and my biro) but the coverage in the Chad, even if I do say so myself, has been excellent and something I am rather proud of.

So what does the typical court day involve?. All being well court begins at 10.30am when the evidence of the first witness is unleashed and my pen leaps into action. Usually each witness throws up a number of stories in each session leaving with me with the often interesting challenge of writing three or four stories during the lunch interval, while trying to juggle my notepad and my cheese sandwhich.

It is then up to me to ring the stories through to our main Mansfield office for one of the other unlucky reporters to take down and file through for our regular internet updates – a process which can often be rather tricky thanks to the frequent bangs, creaks and noises of doors, people and workmen in the court building.

After a quick ten-minute breather the madness of court once again leaps into action and the process is repeated all over again, leaving me to file another one or two stories to keep the news-hungry Chad.co.uk readers happy during the afternoon before I drag my weary body back home.

So while my wrist and brain will no doubt be rather happy when the case ends, I myself will miss the professional buzz the trial has brought me . . . luckily for me I still have another two months to savour.