St Albans journalist looks back on half a century working for the Herts Ad

John Manning with his colleagues at the Herts Ad.

John Manning with his colleagues at the Herts Ad. - Credit: Archant

A journalist is celebrating 50 years of contributing to the Herts Ad by taking a nostalgic look back at the newsroom in days gone by.

John Manning when he worked at the Herts Ad.

John Manning when he worked at the Herts Ad. - Credit: Archant

John Manning first came to work for St Albans’ local paper in February 1969, when it was stationed in Dagnall Street.

At that time, there were 27 reporters and six sub-editors working on four editions - for Borehamwood, Welwyn and Hatfield, Harpenden, and St Albans.

After beginning his career at the Sheffield Star and Coal News, John was hired to write the weekly industrial supplement for the Herts Ad - what was then one of the largest broadsheets in the country.

John said: “It was non-stop council meetings, it was night after night and Saturday mornings too. We worked three out of four Saturday mornings.

“We used to cover every single parish council meeting, we used to cover virtually every council committee.”

He recalls an array of happy memories, including a friendship with comedy legend Eric Morecambe, travelling in private jets on press trips, and when a colleague fell through the office floor and became stuck.

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Despite retiring in 2007, John continues to provide reviews and freelance articles for the Herts Ad.

John remembers one of his favourite stories, which involved scientists at Rothamsted Research attaching miniature antenna to bumblebees.

“It was a nice story and we wanted a picture, but the only available photograph was with a professor in the United States. I emailed the said professor, which was unusual in those days, and that was the very first emailed colour photograph we ever printed.

“It was a fabulous photograph of a bumblebee on some flowers with tiny antenna on its back.”

The industry has substantially changed over the last half century, John said: “When I started we just happened to be going through a particularly gory series of murders, and in those days we would go in the police station, go through reception, stick your head around the DI’s office, and if they weren’t there, go to the canteen and get a cup of tea.

“Can you imagine doing that now?”

On the future of local journalism, he said: “I have no idea what will happen but I am very worried about it. It was always such an important tool in the past, but it has lost much of that now.

“I know the reasons - lack of space and lack of everything else - but local newspaper systems have lost their place in a way.”