worked with a news editor who often told photographers that if they
didn’t hurry back to the office, she’d have their genitals as earrings.
But even she had nothing on Derek Tucker.
If the Wolverhampton
Express & Star of the early 1990s was a school of hard knocks, then
Derek was one hell of a headmaster. To say I was scared of this
redoubtable news editor would be like calling Little Britain a bit of a
I lost count of the times he ripped my copy to shreds. But
then it was pretty ropey. Often, I would be confronted with a printout
of my effort – covered with a mass of red lines, rings and question
When I tried the same trick elsewhere years later on a
district reporter, he wasn’t impressed. I just couldn’t muster the same
But I had nothing to fear. The constructive criticism I
gained under the Tucker regime has stood me in more than good stead
over the years.
I joined the Express & Star in the year before the Birmingham Six were freed.
It will be 15 years this September but it seems like yesterday. I will have been long forgotten by Derek Tucker.
that time it was a paper that used bylines sparingly. Reporters were
just doing a job – why should they get their name in print?
Picky was not the word. I remember filing copy by phone about a driver robbed at gunpoint in a local garage.
with myself for getting what I considered “chapter and verse”, I was
left cursing when the desk rang to ask: “Was he buying petrol or
But Derek’s steely grip was not limited to the newsroom.
At least twice I was hauled over the coals for out-of-hours
misdemeanours – once for getting drunk and insulting some students in a
curry house (how he got to know remains a mystery) and once for losing
my exes cheque in a drunken haze.
Fellow newsdesk bods were quite sympathetic. Derek just had one word to say: “Tough!”
There was a stellar collection of raw journalistic talent at the Express & Star of that time. Many chose to stay.
went on to senior positions elsewhere in the regions, notably Sarah
Jane Smith, now editor at the Shropshire Star. Future national
“stars” included Ian Cobain, Judith Keeling, Nicola Briggs and Nick Hopkins.
Tucker left to take the helm at the Aberdeen Press & Journal and
unsurprisingly his career has since been occasionally touched by
Still, I for one would like to go on record to thank
the man who helped me develop nerves of steel, not to mention the good
sense to spot a stray apostrophe at 1,000 paces.
Jones is a former regional news editor and editor of the St Petersburg
Press in Russia. She is now the director of a PR and features agency