In My Opinion: Bill Heaney: Who is Scotland’s worst-dressed journalist?

THE great thing about being retired – or working from home – is that you don’t have to get dressed to go to work.

It used to be that you had to be smartly turned out, to be a newspaper reporter.

Why? Because, the news editor would tell you that you could be sent anywhere to interview anyone, even royalty, when you checked in for your shift.

High Court and Sheriff Court staff certainly wouldn’t let you into the Press Box if you were scruffy and without a tie.

A good suit, a clean shirt and a tie – and polished shoes – were de rigueur for all male journalists at that time.

When I worked for the Scottish Daily Express, in Ayr, I was an 18 year-old single person who lived in a flat, which I shared with my colleague, Bob Smith.

There was a washing machine and we had a kitchen in the flat, which was owned by Ayrshire Post boss, Alan Cameron.

But we never washed a dish or ironed a shirt and the only day we ever ate in was the day after the cleaner had been in and did the dishes.

Our shirts were laundered and our suits were cleaned and pressed at a dry cleaner’s, round the corner in High Street, Prestwick.

The taxi that picked us up to take us to Ayr Sheriff Court stopped off there each day and the staff allowed us to change into our freshly-cleaned gear in the back shop.

Don’t ask me what we did about underwear, but the only pieces of clothing we really held on to permanently were our dirty raincoats.

We thought they marked us out as reporters out of movies like The Front Page and The Day the Earth Caught Fire.

So, what’s the dress code for journalists these days?

Some of the reporters I see out and about on assignments look like the proverbial wreck of the Hesperus.

They appear to have slept in their clothes on someone else’s floor and certainly not to have brushed their hair or even washed their face.

And that’s just the women. I jest, of course, ladies.

The notable exceptions are television presenters like Jackie Bird, Catriona Shearer, Sally McNair and Sally Magnusson, at BBC Scotland.

They had their ‘legs pulled’ this year, though, on their own channel’s Hogmanay schedule.

The Rab C Nesbitt producers drafted in a rather lovely, impeccably-dressed actress to interview Rab’s wife, Mary Doll.

It wasn’t difficult for regular watchers of Reporting Scotland to work out who the journalist character was based on, or that there was a wind-up going on.

Some of the reporters out in the field – television and otherwise – however look bedraggled by half past six in the evening and on their way home from a wet day out tending cattle.

So, who then is the worst-dressed journalist in Scotland?

George Galloway MP came second in a recently-released GQ magazine’s list of worst-dressed men. And he does lots of media work. So, does this really make him the worst-dressed ‘journalist’ in Scotland, or are there more rumpled reporters and fashion geeks out there?

Do you know someone that might rival the gorgeous one for that worst-dressed title?

And is it really fair for any journalist stigmatize anyone by putting this kind of label on them?

It might be a little bit unethical, but in the best traditions of Scottish journalism, and with Robert Burns Night just around the corner, I think they should be given the chance to see themselves as others see them.

Bill Heaney is an award-winning journalist who edited the Lennox Herald for many years and was a special adviser, on the regional Press, at Holyrood and a media adviser at Westminster. He is now retired but continues to operate as a columnist with the Lennox Herald and a pro bono media consultant to a number of churches and charities.