Returning to his native roots on Saturday 19th October is former Harrogate Advertiser reporter, John Craven, who in 1972 launched the world’s first television news bulletin for children, John Craven’s Newsround. After more than 3,000 editions, John left in 1989 to present the hugely successful Countryfile where he has remained ever since.
Ahead of his visit, John answered these questions about Harrogate, his time as a junior reporter on the Harrogate Advertiser and gives his advice on those considering a career in the media.
1, What do you like most about Harrogate and why?
I love the way it retains its old-world charm and identity, with timeless assets like the Pump Room, the fine hotels, the Valley Gardens and the incomparable Stray yet has successfully taken on the challenges of modern times and become a leading conference and exhibition centre. That was just starting to happen when I worked there 60 years ago and was perceived as a bit of a gamble – but it has certainly paid off.
2, What abiding memories do you have about your time at the Harrogate Advertiser?
It was where I survived as a trainee journalist despite making some terrible mistakes, such as inadvertently sending a leading local cleric his obituary in the post (he was still alive, and he forgave me!). The Advertiser was and still is a fine local newspaper and my experiences there taught me, I would hope, to be an accurate and honest observer. The small team of reporters was young and keen, and I made great friendships as we battled to meet deadlines. In my memoir I look back most fondly at those formative times.
3, What advice would you give to anyone wanting a career in journalism?
Very few journalists, including me, had a degree when I started, but now it is the jumping-off point, though not necessarily one in ‘media studies’. Much depends on which area of print or broadcast journalism interests you. Maybe try out your hand on the university magazine before you apply for jobs. There are far more opportunities these days but also there is far more competition. Have faith in yourself and you should succeed.
4, When did you decide to write an autobiography and how long it take to accomplish?
I made the decision three or four years ago. It seemed to me that quite a lot had happened to me during my lifetime that might be worth reading so I should put it on record while I still had the ability to remember.
I wrote it in sections – early days, newspaper journalism and then television work from regional programmes through Newsround and Swap Shop to Countryfile. I have never kept a proper diary but I do have a pretty good recall of important events and lots of press cuttings so the process was easier and more enjoyable than I initially thought it might be. Throughout my professional career my mantra has been ‘keep it short without being simplistic” so the hardest part about writing the memoir was ditching the short bit – there are 93,000 words.
5, If you could live your life again is there anything you would have done differently?
I don’t think so. I’ve had some lucky breaks, learnt from my mistakes and had a happy and fulfilling life. Maybe I should have paid more attention at school and then strode the groves of academe but to be honest I don’t regret the path I have taken.
6, Apart from appearing at the Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival on the Saturday afternoon, what other plans do you have for the day?
I will check out my old haunts, discover how things have changed, and meet up with my sister and her family who have lived in the Harrogate area for many years.