My Media Day: Keith MacKenzie, reporter, West Highland Free Press

KEITH MacKenzie is a reporter on the West Highland Free Press, which he joined in October nine years ago, having completed an HNC in Journalism at Cardonald College in Glasgow and, before that, an MA in History at Glasgow University. Among his prizes at the Highlands and Islands Media Awards, he was this year named Feature Writer of the Year, and Journalist of the Year four years ago. He submitted this on Thursday, August 9.

What exactly is it you do?

I’m a local newspaper reporter, so write stories on a variety of subjects. We’re a small team, so I have to be able to contribute to all sections of the paper, be it in sport, news or features. I’ve also been an employee-director since three years ago, when ten of the 13 staff who work here successfully completed an employee buyout of the company from the original owners.

What did your working day today or yesterday comprise?

Yesterday – Wednesday – was ‘press day’, so it’s very much a case of bringing everything together. First thing, I proofed and headlined a feature, which I’d written the previous day, about a local artist. I then worked on some news stories.

This week I had a story about a young guy from Skye who is in the RAF and landed himself a plum job looking after the flags for the presentation ceremonies inside the Olympic stadium. He had a front row seat to see Ennis, Bolt and co. win gold.

A poor hygiene report on the area’s largest hospital was our lead story for this week, and I worked on that in the afternoon. The final couple of hours before deadline were spent writing headlines and proof reading our first three pages.

How different or similar was it to your average working day?

Because one of the three reporters from the office is on holiday this week, there was a bit extra to do, but we all have to muck in. When the paper comes out on a Thursday morning it’s very much a shared effort.

How different or similar was it to your average working day when you started in post?

I’ve been here close to nine years, so I have a lot more responsibility in terms of sourcing stories – generally we are expected to come up with our own news stories. I also do a lot more sub-editing these days.

How do you see the job evolving?

The core skills of newspaper journalism – talking to people, research, checking facts and then communicating them – are as important now as they’ve ever been. But the trend for accessing news online, rather than from print, presents the major challenge for newspapers. Making content available online is the easy part, but making it pay so that journalists can earn a living from it seems more difficult.

What gives you most job satisfaction?

As far as job satisfaction goes it’s always pleasing, when out and about, just to overhear the words, “I saw that in the Free Press”. It’s a nice reminder of why we do what we do.