When I was studying journalism for a postgraduate degree at Glasgow Caledonian University, I did a week of work experience at Isle of Man Newspapers in 2014. During that week Adrian Darbyshire was there as chief journalist, a role he will abandon when he moves to the Shetland Islands at the end of this month.
Adrian was friendly and approachable, with shorthand as a second language. I was trying to learn shorthand during my studies back then and was blown away by how quickly he was with notepad and outlines.
I also got a feel for how long he was ‘in the news game’ – he worked for news agencies, national newspapers and local evening papers and weeklies in Manchester, Lancashire and Birmingham since 1991.
He joined the Isle of Man newspapers in October 2004 and in the very first week followed the then chief journalist to the Chief Minister’s weekly press conference when a story broke that was supposed to making headlines for years – the Manx Electricity Authority loan scandal.
“I thought” what kind of place have I moved to? “, He said.
Adrian, 55, had been editor of the Blackpool Gazette before moving to the island.
“ This is my 30th year in journalism so I’ve covered a lot of stories – I’ve interviewed political leaders, reported on party conferences and high profile criminal trials, received death threats from gangs of drugs, exposed pedophiles and went undercover for the News of the world. I remember taking a call one day about a hamster in a toy dragster wreaking havoc at Blackpool Prom, ” he said.
“In my very first job I used a typewriter and you could hardly hear yourself think. Technology is a big difference – working remotely on laptops, the rise of the Internet, shooting videos on our mobiles, using e-mail, and challenging our industry with social media. When I started in the 1990s, I spent about 90% of my time out of the office and copied on the phone from a phone booth. It is now more of an office job.
He said his shorthand skill was better than his regular longhand writing. “ People are always in awe when they see you writing in shorthand – they think you’re some kind of spy, ” he said.
Adrian has covered the majority of the “ big ” stories over the past 17 years – the VAT bomb, the government’s proposal to buy the Steam Packet, the MHK who refused to pay his pension. “ Another 2011 story involving a certain MHK who taught people about restraint during the holiday season and got so drunk in an office he was sick on the bus to go home is still being discussed today. ‘hui! ” he said.
One of his favorites involved the multinational Procter and Gamble.
He said: ‘When I got here I thought it was awash in cash, saving a Manx tiger. It wasn’t until later that I realized that we get a big check from the UK every year for our share of VAT.
“ I discovered that the biggest contributor to our VAT receipts was this giant company, which had a base in a small brass plaque office on Brewery Wharf, Castletown, with a staff of two who apparently dealt with huge global shipments of pharmaceuticals that never went anywhere. near the shores of Manx.
Shortly after the story appeared in the newspaper, they hooked up and moved to Dublin.
Adrian said after covering so many stories it was hard to remember them all. “ A coworker asked me if I could remember going to a house in Willaston to see satanic symbols, but I really don’t remember!
“ I feel a bit like a dinosaur – an old-fashioned journalist determined to always have the story and get my signature on the front page.
“ I was told that politicians were nervous if they knew I was interviewing them, or at least if they knew they had to do their homework first. But I think I’ve always been fair, so even those who might not be happy with a story could at least accept that I gave them the right to reply.
Adrian said that no job other than journalism can have such an implication in the lives of others.
He said of his latest memorable story: ‘The jet ski man from Scotland – there were only two journalists in court for that and it was the photo that really made the story . I got a call from someone who had taken pictures of swans in Ramsey and spotted this man on a jet ski in the bay. I was able to confirm that he was the man in court and that this photo was published around the world.
Regarding Covid-19 and how his role as a journalist has been affected by the pandemic, Adrian said: “There were headlines you would never, ever expect to write – ‘A Serious, Imminent Threat’, “State of emergency declared”. If we had written this at any other time, we would have been accused of sensationalism.
‘It was an extraordinary time – we had already been quite used to working from home, but it was the amount of fuss that was happening quickly, especially in the first two weeks of the lockdown. I think the newspapers have done a good job and the pandemic has brought out a community spirit that we haven’t seen in a while. We played a big part in that, because we were sort of at the heart of it. ”
Adrian is married to Jackie Darbyshire, another journalist and former Isle of Man newspaper clerk, who worked from home with him during the lockdown, and was expecting a baby.
“From a journalist’s point of view, it was exciting,” he said.
That’s the job – I’ve always loved seeing my signature in the newspaper, I’ve never lost that joy of writing a great story that people want to read.
‘Each [regional] patch has different things to cover – people in the UK would tell me, “There isn’t much to write about except for herrings and manx cats!”
“ There is less crime here luckily, but we have financial services, our own parliament, so politics is very much in our coverage, and it’s a community newspaper, so there is always a lot to report. ”
Adrian said that as he looked back on his time here, he realized how dramatically journalism had changed over the past 30 years.
He said: ‘I really enjoyed my stay here, but I think it is very sad that the number of employees working here is only a fraction of what it was in 2004.
“I think it’s important for democracy that the media ‘keep an eye’ on politicians and local authorities. It is also important to cover the courts and ensure that justice is served. It’s human nature that if people think they can get away with it, they will. ”
When asked if he, Jackie and their nine-month-old daughter Ella would return to the Isle of Man in the future, he replied: ‘It is possible. Jackie landed a job as Associate Editor at The Shetland Times and maybe I could do some freelance articles for the Isle of Man newspapers, who knows?
‘I really like it here. It was an idyllic place to raise my first daughter, Charlotte. I would like the same for Ella. In addition, in Shetland, we will miss the trees!