Experience of the job was 'Killer' factor in decision - Press Gazette

Experience of the job was 'Killer' factor in decision

I'd decided that news reporting was underpaid, short on vacancies, and probably all about multi-skilling, roundthe- clock hard labour. I was heading for PR.

But after a few days pounding the mean streets of Salford in my stilettos, I discovered the joys of news reporting, thanks to the undying enthusiasm of the Manchester Evening News's Salford correspondent of some 18 years, Neal Keeling, fondly called "Killer" by colleagues.

I arrived at the new swish multimedia newsroom of the MEN in my best suit and flash stilettos to try to create an impression.

"Not sure that's appropriate gear for running round the streets of Salford,"

said a wiry, middle-aged reporter whom I too would eventually know as "Killer".

"I haven't got a shell suit," I replied, making Killer crack into a grin. "But I could buy one, if that improves my street cred."

I had travelled from Stoke-on-Trent to Manchester, expecting to do nothing more than rewrite a few press releases.

PEOPLE Experience of the job was ‘Killer'

factor in decision Besides, I had decided that my journalism degree was going to get me into PR, where I would be at home in my stilettos.

Not that they stayed on long on day one with Killer. Maybe he just felt sorry for me when he took me under his wing.

He was also an old mate of my tutor at Staffordshire University, Steve Panter. I'm not sure who is more "veteran", Steve or Neal.

Killer had a job to do and there was no way I and my stilettos were going to slow him down. Keeping up with Neal's chase for a story was tough for anyone, as was escaping him, as a criminal discovered later that day.

The first job came through within minutes of my arrival and we needed to be there, a mile away, 10 minutes ago.

We jogged past Coronation Street, where some filming was being done outside.

I got a glimpse of some stars I couldn't put a name to as we pressed on.

Off came my stilettos – not for the last time that day – as I trailed barefoot in Killer's wake. Breathless and nearlydropping, I learned why he was called Killer.

The case was delayed and we had to hang around the court for a while.

Cases never started on time, Killer said.

Millions of public money down the drain every day because of delays.

I had just settled down to a cup of tea when Neal got word that a giant in a sandwich board was walking up and down the dual carriageway outside Salford University, trying to promote his music.

He explained he wasn't a music fan and told me to "go and come back with a story in 20 minutes".

So, keen to make Killer's deadline, I took off my stilettos again and hurried the half mile to where a huge man was walking up and down the central reservation with a billboard hanging from his neck.

I waved at him with a stiletto in my hand to come to the other side of the deadly, busy A580. He ignored me.

Fearing Killer more than the giant, I dodged the traffic barefoot and told the man I was a reporter (as the PCC Code stipulates) and asked him what he was doing.

He told me if I "printed" him in the newspaper it would have "serious repercussions" for me personally and that the paper would also be in trouble. I said it was my first day but, unimpressed, he said he was a nasty man and was wanted by the police. Sod this, I thought, I'm not even getting paid for this.

I arrived back at court to find the trial about to start, with Killer's sharpened pencil poised.

The woman defendant was a carer, who admitted stealing money from old folk. The case was adjourned to the Crown Court for sentence. Neal wanted a "mugshot" as the woman walked free on police bail.

As we waited outside the front door, our quarry tried to flee through rear fire doors, but the court security told her she had to leave via the front.

"Knew that'd happen," said Killer.

The woman sprinted from court and we followed, my stilettos off for the third time in the day. She gave us the slip, but we found her later on, thanks to one of Killer's snouts.

We had walked everywhere trying to get that picture. After Killer got his woman, I wanted to chop my feet off, but we still walked back to the office.

"So, what was the sandwich board man's story then?" I knew he'd remember.

Killer was less than impressed, but said I could only improve. He told me to come back tomorrow with my trainers packed.

On the way home I couldn't wait for day two.

Every one of the next four days was different, filled with interviewing "real people", more court reporting – and I was even sent out on my own.

I got two stories in the paper and on the MEN website, which meant my byline went global. Now I hope to follow in Killer's footsteps, in trainers of course.

He said later: "It's just great seeing young people who are enthusiastic about learning the trade. I'll never forget Lauren running after me barefoot.

That's what I call keen!"