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Living on the Echo’s salary meant cutting corners

On The Eye our Editor Phil Parry 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, making clear that ‘calls’ to emergency services and court cases are central to any media operation, as well as the vital role of the accurate quotation.

He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is, the importance of expenses, and about some of those he has interviewed for the now-defunct 53 year-old BBC Wales TV Current Affairs series, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off

Life then on the Echo was not easy

Here Mr Parry explains what life was like for a young journalist on a big city-based evening paper. 

For trainee reporters on local newspapers there are real hardships.

You cannot afford any luxuries beyond a few pints, and you always have to count the pennies when it comes to living accommodation.

Anyway that was certainly the case when I started on the South Wales Echo 35 years ago.

Clive Street in Cardiff – happy memories for Phil. Not

It has only just struck me how long ago this was and the shock is palpable!

Over Christmas 1983 I looked round a rented ‘flat’ on Clive Street in the Grangetown area of Cardiff with a mate of mine who was the trainee reporter on the Western Mail called Tim.

We decided to take it – on conditions.

This flat was on the third floor of a house, and every room had its own meter, with the rooms giving out onto a tiny rubbishy kitchen which had only a skylight for illumination.

The accommodation for Phil was dire

All the rooms were under the eaves and the roof leaked so there were enormous bulges in the wallpaper where the water collected.

One of the bulges was just above my head in the bed and I was always worried it might burst in the night!

On the floor below us there was an Iraqi while on the ground floor there was an Iranian – this was at the height of the Iran/Iraq war and the pair used to have enormous arguments.

There was only a single shower and toilet for the entire house (no bath as I remember, although there must have been one somewhere) and dark hairs used to collect on the grill for the shower’s waste pipe.

Apart from the two bedrooms for Tim and me, there was a small box room without a window – it had only a skylight, and this too had its own meter.

Another ill-lit room was to be rented out separately

As we were being shown round the flat by the landlord, it dawned on me that he was going to rent out this box room separately, so we negotiated to rent that room too.

Our rent went up to the princely sum of £11 a week….

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