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‘I MUST make that deadline…’

Here our Editor Phil Parry looks at news that the deadline which could affect Wales more than any other – to secure a trade deal with the European Union (EU) – isn’t really a deadline at all! 

In the past he has described how he was helped to break into the South Wales Echo office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and making clear that the ‘calls’ to emergency services as well as court cases are central to any media operation.

Phil on BBC Cymru Wales Today in 1988 – speak and be quick about it!

He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories presenting the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW) TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his careerreally took off

Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of ‘history’ is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.

Investigative journalism is needed now more than ever

Earlier he outlined why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, and how information from trusted sources is crucial at this time of crisis.


When is a deadline a deadline?

When it is in the world of the UK/European Union (EU) trade deals of course!

First we were told that the ‘deadline’ for getting a deal with the EU was the end of this year, then it was Thursday because of the summit of EU leaders, and now apparently talks will continue for at least two more weeks, with the end of October being seen as the real ‘deadline’ to reach a deal.

Lord (David) Frost and Michel Barnier, but Thursday is NOT a deadline for a trade deal apparently

One diplomat close to the talks said: “Negotiations will continue. Thursday is not a deadline”.

To me though, deadlines have always been sacrosanct.

Deadlines in journalism MUST be met, and any delay could have terrible consequences.

It is less important now, of course, because news over the internet means that anything can go out at any time or be changed immediately, and I still find that strange!

Phil in the newsroom of the South Wales Echo when meeting the deadline was vital

The deadlines for the Cardiff-based evening paper I worked on as a trainee reporter (South Wales Echo) are still seared into my brain – 10.45 am for the front page and 10.30 am for page three which was the second most important news page.

The deadlines when I was in broadcasting were absolutely rock solid, and linked to being on air.

At HTV Wales (as it then was) on the programme where I reported (Wales at Six), I overheard one executive in the Pontcanna, Cardiff newsroom telling off another journalist who had missed his deadline, by saying:  “The programme is called Wales at Six.  So what time do you think we’re on air?  The clue’s in the name”.

In broadcasting it was just as important for Phil to have the item ready by the deadline

For BBC Wales Today the timing was just as rigorous and your piece always had to be ready to go out for the programme, which was slightly earlier then (5.25 pm) as the studio had to be prepared for the Welsh language version.

It was always a nerve racking moment being given a story you might know nothing about by the producer in the morning, realising you would have to find the interviewees, record them, cut it and have it ready to go out in a few hours time!

The editing suites then were (absurdly) a long way from where the programme was actually transmitted, so you would regularly see an assistant running at full pelt through the newsroom with the tape recorded item in hand.

Reporters have always had to meet the deadline

I often thought that if anyone had been hit, there would have been a terrible accident!

One well known UK journalist proudly emphasised to me how good he was by saying:  “I have NEVER missed a deadline!”.

In radio too the deadline was immovable.

You HAD to be in place every day to broadcast at the allotted time otherwise they would just have to fill the time with mindless lift music and it would be a complete disaster.

On Radio Wales when the red light came on Phil always had to be ready

When I was presenting the BBC Radio Wales (BBC RW) programmes Wales at One (WaO) (which has now been axed) and Good Evening Wales (GEW) I would regularly have anxiety dreams about missing the deadline.

One of those dreams put me in the centre of Cardiff when I was presenting WaO at 12.30, with me thinking I could JUST make it in time, but as I then searched frantically for my car, I realised it had disappeared!

Yet now it appears those kind of deadlines have gone out the window.

Book posterA deadline doesn’t actually MEAN a deadline at all because ‘negotiations will continue’!


Tomorrow – why lawyers have told the Welsh Government (WG) they may have broken the law. 

Phil’s memories of his astonishing 37-year award-winning career in journalism (when meeting the deadline was vital) as he was gripped by the rare neurological disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!