Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Young Inquisitors Leave Me Exposed

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Young Inquisitors Leave Me Exposed

Article excerpt


HER eyes narrowed as she slowly phrased the question. Megan, I think her name was. Or Kirsty. Or could it have been Catherine? The name doesn't matter. They were tough inquisitors, all of them. And this was one tough question.

"What was the biggest story you ever worked on?" I thought quickly. I've been a journalist for 45 years, worked on three continents, edited papers all over covering stories great and small.

But the team grilling me were young and needed something recent, something modern that they could relate to.

"Sadly," I replied at length, "it was without doubt the death of the Princess of Wales."

Their expressions didn't change. "In Paris, in the car crash?" I scanned their blank faces for a hint of recognition. And suddenly I felt very old and rather out of touch.

These were, after all, Year Eight students at Berwick Middle School. Twelve-year-olds who were barely born in 1997 when the People's Princess died in that horrible high-speed car crash.

I might just as well have told them I had covered the Storming of the Bastille: "1789 it was, I remember it well. French peasants hadn't had a croissant for days, very grumpy with us Press lads."

I didn't do any better with the follow-up questions as I moved in 15-minute stops around groups of four or five students let loose to quiz the visitors on their various careers.

"Who's the most famous person you ever met?" asked a wide-eyed Cameron or Hamish or Fraser. I told them I'd met Tony Blair and Mother Theresa; I might as well have mentioned Genghis Khan.

It was quite obvious they were hoping for a Ronaldo or a Britney. They brightened slightly when I mentioned that Piers Morgan used to work for me, but when I couldn't follow that up with any Amazing Moments from the Great Man's TV Career their interest waned. …

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