More thrills than skills – A half-life in journalism, part 112

Over the next few weeks, is to publish, each weekday, edited extracts from the memoirs of Scottish war correspondent, Paul Harris. ‘More thrills than skills – A half-life in journalism’, is to be published March 1 next year, by Kennedy & Boyd, Glasgow, and available from

WITH a much-reduced staff, we were faced with a 20-page paper.

A new boy, fresh out of Yale with no journalistic experience, has arrived but leaves for a family holiday in Hawaii just before we go to 20 pages.

An old hand, Lancy, returns to India to be with his family for three weeks. And then, on the evening of December 29, I am told my services are no longer required, effective from January 19.

Enigmatically, I am told that the paper is engaging “more experienced” people. There is no criticism of my work as such, just that there are simply more proficient people coming along.

This is puzzling: the paper has just engaged a boy straight from Yale with no experience whatsoever. His training and expertise is as a sculptor. It would appear that my 35 years as an editor, writer and publisher are not required.

I had re-applied in writing for another year’s contract on October 24 – as it happened the day before my wedding to a Chinese woman in Shanghai – and three months before the expiry of my contract.

After more than two months, I am told to be ‘on my bike’ in just over three weeks. I am replaced by an American journalist who imports his wife and three children into the country as well. He will last six months on the paper.

I had kept my ‘nose fairly clean’ in Shanghai but I maybe stepped over the line a couple of times.