After some 15 years in journalism, most of which have been spent here in Boston, it is time to say farewell to the industry and my home town, writes Stephen Stray.
As I prepare to take up a new challenge, I hope you will indulge me one last time as I reflect on my time in the newsroom.
It has been a privilege to serve on the Boston Standard and I was incredibly proud to become the paper’s editor in July 2011, and latterly group editor for 10 of Johnston Press’ Lincolnshire titles.
As a reporter, I have covered many stories, some truly amazing (a trip to Boston USA), many heartwarming, and some just bizarre – a dead pet dog being found in the freezer of a butcher’s shop (long-since closed) is one which stands out!
But to this day, I continue to be amazed at how willing many of you are to welcome us into your homes, often at times of tragedy, to share your stories. But as well as seeing people at their worst, we also get to see them at their very best, for example when the family of Boston boxer Callum Johnson welcomed me, a stranger, into their home to watch their son, grandson and brother win Commonwealth Gold – I still get goosebumps thinking of their reaction. It is then our job to craft an article which we hope will fittingly convey that emotion, and only you, the readers, can judge the degree of success.
My time as editor has certainly brought some memorable headlines, not least in my first week officially at the helm when an illegal vodka den exploded in Broadfield Lane, killing five people. As well as reporting the facts of what happened, we held the authorities to account, asking how such an operation was able to go undetected.
There have also been major developments, including the Quadrant; elections; the social impact inquiry, at which I gave evidence; and our campaign to protect services at Pilgrim Hospital.
But the one which will last forever in the memory will be the flooding in December 2013. That night the team set up camp in their own living rooms and I was stationed at the Princess Royal Sports Arena, a makeshift evacuation centre. None of us knew what we would be returning to the next morning - but we certainly didn’t expect to find waist-high flood water had destroyed the office. We always aim to be at the heart of the news, but with it being so close to home I am not ashamed to admit the emotions that night got the better of me. I was immensely proud of the team, as I have always been, of the coverage we provided and also the fact we were able to honour, in some small way, the contribution of the community in getting people and businesses back on their feet.
And that is what The Standard is all about - being a part of the community it serves. It has done that for more than a century, and it was an honour to be the editor when the paper celebrated its 100th anniversary. I was also proud to see the title defy the odds and be crowned Newspaper of the Year at the inaugural Johnston Press Awards in 2012, and a year later be highly commended in the Website of the Year category at the East Midlands Press Awards.
The latter accolade is a clear nod to the contribution we make to the growing online audience. The Standard has had to move with the times, and while we strive to make the much-loved print edition the very best it can be, the digital age in which we live now means people expect to see the news as soon as it happens. And that is a challenge the paper continues to meet – often the first and trusted port of call when news breaks in the area.
Our growing presence on social media has also been a great platform to ‘debate’ with readers.
I am sure there are many more developments across the newspaper industry, but The Standard’s principles will no doubt always remain.
I’ve long said being a journalist isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle choice... and it’s one I shall miss greatly.