The changing face of journalism, part 7,779

I had a bit of a lesson last Friday in how journalism is changing – something I’ve always been aware of being someone that’s nearly always worked in online media, but a reminder nonetheless. Above is a story from the Evening Standard from the time that Network SouthEast (remember that?) was introducing the Networker trains to south-east London. It was the first time I’d ever been paid for some journalism work – I was a student at the London College of Printing at the time and found myself delayed by this broken train on my way in one morning, rather luckily on a day when we were meant to be finding some news stories to report on.

I rang up the Standard and faxed (faxed!) over some copy, a small portion of which got used in the above story. Unfortunately, I can’t find the payslip so can’t provide an exact date – it was the spring of 1993 – but I do remember they paid me £30 for my efforts.

Jump ahead 17 years, and there’s another new form of transport hitting teething problems. But who’s that quoted in the right-hand column? I didn’t have to ring the Standard up, and they didn’t have to pay me because I’d already said it in public. I was out on Thursday having a ride on the new Boris bikes, when I suddenly found myself unable to pick up a new bike after taking a break at possibly London’s twee-est docking station, the tennis courts in Regent’s Park. I rang TfL, who said there was a problem and I should try another station.

However, through Marylebone and into the West End, they were down. I was meeting other people having the same problem. I thought I’d mention it on Twitter to try to fathom out just what was going on and draw attention to it – not much luck, actually, but there was definitely some kind of issue, although confusingly I did see a few people cycling around with no problems. I went to the pub and forgot about it. But the Standard was smart enough to use my gibberings to help stand up their story – and that’s how I ended up in Friday’s paper.

Things like Have Your Say and other forms of dumb commenting on news websites regularly give it a bad name, but the Standard’s use of my tweet in their story was a textbook example of how it should be done. Of course, they could have tweeted me back to get my number to ask more questions, but I’d given them enough there as it was (and even included a photo with my tweet).

Strange to think how things have changed – 17 years ago, it took me calling them as a journalist to give them a hand with a story; now they can just find me or any old Joe on Twitter. On balance, and used wisely, it’s got to be a good thing. It’s enough to make me feel old, though…


  1. Reading that story I liked the fact it said a guard was on board. Was that the norm back then?

  2. The Networkers were still new then – I remember them having special public test runs in late 1992 – and the old slam door trains had guards, so I imagine they did have guards. There was a lot of work put into making sure trains could run driver-only (completed) and that they could run with 12 cars (completed but the 12 car trains never ran due to cutbacks – despite rebuilding of stations like Maze Hill).

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