Editor’s reflections on stepping down after 23 years at the helm of the North Norfolk News

Richard Batson, standing next to the Henry Blogg bust in Cromer. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Richard Batson, standing next to the Henry Blogg bust in Cromer. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Journalism brought me to Cromer in 1992.

Richard Batson career pictures - an early meeting with Henry Blogg of Cromer in 1972

Richard Batson career pictures - an early meeting with Henry Blogg of Cromer in 1972 - Credit: Archant

Twenty years earlier it was my dad's red Ford Escort that did it – on a family outing to the seaside.

Little did the scrawny long haired 'mod' student standing next the legendary lifeboatman Henry Blogg know – but he would be back one day as editor of the local paper.

It was not my first career choice – having been a failed property surveyor student. I did not measure up, hence a switch to being a cub reporter – having cut my teeth writing programmes and match reports for Subbuteo table football games as a schoolboy.

And I suppose Cromer was in my destiny as someone who has a seemingly hardened outer shell, has moved sideways a lot in their job (this is my fourth spell in charge of an office), and can be a bit crabby at times.

Richard Batson career pictures- the office when cut off at Salthouse in the 1996 floods

Richard Batson career pictures- the office when cut off at Salthouse in the 1996 floods - Credit: Archant

Now this week I am heading off after 23 years at the helm of the North Norfolk News, sailing into new waters in the world of public relations, after exactly 40 years on the decks of local newspapers.

It has been a voyage which has been stormy, exciting, and full of changes.

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North Norfolk has been my favourite place to work of all the many communities I have served around the county since 1975.

A place of scenic beauty, whose stunning coast provides stories of tourism and rescues in summer, and erosion and flood in winter.

Richard Batson career pictures - hunting the Norfolk puma

Richard Batson career pictures - hunting the Norfolk puma - Credit: Archant

A place of impassioned, eloquent and energetic people – committed to their communities, carnival, charities and causes –whether that be fighting local hospital cutbacks or supermarket plans.

It has been a pleasure and privilege to report on the triumphs and tribulations over the years, but with more than 1,000 papers produced under my watch it is difficult to pick out just a few highlights, but here goes:

?1996 – another sea surge shoved through the shingle bank, swamped the marshes, and covered the coast road at Salthouse. The village green phone box, with water lapping around it was my office. And when the snow blocked the inland roads to I was marooned and slept on the sofa at the parish council chairman's house.

?1996 – at Christmas I got a phone call saying Oasis (the pop band of the moment) were drinking in Trunch social club. Yeah right. But then came another, and it turned out to be true. I sourced photos of them mingling with locals at the Mundesley Royal, but got no comment from the Gimingham home of singer Noel Gallagher's then wife. The day was saved when I tracked down the local shopkeeper, who sold the band their festive sprouts. An exclusive that was picked up by the national press. I forgot to ask if they bought bread to go with their meal – to see if they had a Roll With It.

Richard Batson career pictures - meeting a ventriloquism dummy (right)

Richard Batson career pictures - meeting a ventriloquism dummy (right) - Credit: Archant

?1997 – I saw the Norfolk puma – sorry pooma – I think. It happened on the way to the general election count, when I caught the back end of a cat like body and tail going into the bushes near the Suffield Arms at Gunton, where I had only had a cola. After the results were declared I headed back to try to find it, wearing a deerstalker hat for the pictures. A catstalker hat might have worked better.

There have been fun times: driving a tank, a steam loco, taking the tiller of wherry Albion, and having a go at geeing a ventriloquist with Steve Hewlett at Cromer

Kier.

And there have been long sagas. The 10-year-long Sheringham Tesco battle, which got nasty at times, was probably the most gruelling to report - but at least had an outcome.

Coastal erosion and sea defence tales have ranged from schemes for the major resorts of Cromer and Sheringham, but homes being lost at Happisburgh and inundated at Walcott and Bacton - rural areas where waves of ministerial visits have brought sympathy but little long-term hope.

For all of those headline-grabbing dramas and sagas there have been thousands more positive stories about human endeavour, inspirational bravery in the face of illness and generous charity giving that lifts the spirits.

As a reporter and editor I have always tried to be fair and to balance the bad news with the good - with a dash of humour (and maybe the odd pun).

So I will leave you with a couple of real life chuckles that amused me during my reign in north Norfolk.

?Headline: Police found burning man in garden (seems harsh but probably saves a trip to cop shop and all that paperwork)

?Public notice: Life support and the problems of alcohol - speakers from the Samaritans - bar available.

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