Yesterday I was asked by presenter Dave Hughes to call-in and contribute towards an interview/broadcast he was doing live on his Maghull Radio show. The person being interviewed was none other than well known local journalist Jim Sharpe.
The thing was Jim did not know I had been invited so he was surprised when I walked into the recording studio of this internet based radio station, which is run from Maghull Town Hall, part way through his interview.
My point of my being there was to say what I thought about Jim and his journalistic work in Maghull and district over the 25 years I have known him. He need not have worried, if indeed he was worried about what I may say, because it was all complementary.
Jim is an old school journalist who knows more about Maghull than the vast majority of politicians who have been elected to serve it and I first got to know him as he sat through Maghull Town Council meetings (I was a Maghull Town Councillor for 30 years – 1985 to 2015) making notes of the discussions and debates that were going on. He first worked, as I knew him, for the Maghull & Aintree Star newspaper and then he moved on to work (as he still does) for the Aintree & Maghull Champion. I would add that he started work at the Ormskirk Advertiser group of newspapers and that he worked in public relations for Pilkington’s and BT after that.
He started to write a One Man & His Dog column for the Star and this then transferred with him to the Champion. Nowadays the column is quite general as it is published throughout the whole range of Champion editions. However, in its original form it was just about Maghull and Lydiate. The thing is Jim used it to keep the local politicians honest although he may not have seen it quite like that. What he did was to look at things going on in the Maghull area in detail and comment on them. If he thought something was going on that was not to the credit of the Town he would say so and folks took notice of what he had to say. This is how I think he kept the politicians honest. His One Man & His Dog columns are not like that these days because they have to be of general interest over a much wider geographical area and I think we in Maghull/Lydiate area have sadly lost something.
I like Jim as he speaks his mind and because he cares about his locality. We may not always agree but such is the way a free press should operate in a free society.
You know its not a bad idea that local politicians have to look over their shoulder to see what a free independent press really think of their actions, indeed I don’t think there’s enough of that going on these days as the media generally becomes more remote. Yes it’s fine getting press releases via e-mail, the odd phone conversation etc. But Jim looks into the whites of your eyes, in a very friendly way, when he meets you and he gains other opinions about what you are doing.
I like old fashioned journalism where newspapers were campaigning publications that flushed out stories and got to the facts, it may be unfashionable now but when Jim’s generation of journalism finally disappears we will all be the worse for it.
It was nice to say good things about Jim on Maghull Radio.
One of the most famous quotes about the press and my personal favourite comes from a fictional 19th century Irish bartender named Mr. Dooley.
On 7th October 1893 the Chicago Evening Post journalist and humorist Finley Peter Dunne introduced his readers to a character called Mr. Dooley in a newspaper column. And Dooley said:-
‘The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable’
These days we would have to replace ‘newspaper’ with ‘media’ as there are so many ways that people get their news now, but the powerful nature of the quote still resonates. I like to think that Jim would subscribe to this quote. For ‘afflicted’ read Joe and Jane Public, for ‘comfortable’ by the way read ‘politicians’