My Big Break: Andrew Watson, recent former night picture editor, Daily Record

ANDREW Watson has recently stood down as night picture editor of the Daily Record, after 16 years in the role, having take up the position after serving as a staff photographer with the newspaper.

After a career spanning over 40 years – which started as a junior photographer with F. Johnston and Co. (that was to become Johnston Press) in 1973 – he’s now planning a “short time out to recharge the batteries”, before looking for other opportunities to pursue.

He told “My decision to leave the Daily Record was not an easy one. I had a great job. So why leave? It’s taken me over two years of make the decision. I simply needed a break. I still have a connection with the paper, as a trustee of the Mirror Group Pension Schemes, where I serve as depute chair of the Trustee Board looking after the pensions of over 10,000 members.

“What does the future hold? Who knows?  I may have ‘retired’ from this job – but will be looking for other opportunities to pursue. When I left the Record, my break was short-lived as I ended up as venue photo manager at the Rugby Sevens during the Commonwealth Games – an amazing full-on experience.

“For now, I’m having that break I promised myself.”

When did working in the media become an ambition?

My interest in photography started at a young age, when I was given some camera equipment by a family friend and set up my first darkroom under the stairs of the family home. I had got the photography bug and the news bug followed when I started writing short articles for the district news section of the Falkirk Herald – where I was to get my first job in newspapers.

What was your first ‘media job’?

I left school at 17 and started work the following week as a junior photographer with F. Johnston and Co. (Johnston Press) in 1973 on a salary of around £400 (£8 per week).

After a few months training ‘on the job’ I was sent to Wednesbury in the West Midlands to study Press photography – the only college then doing a dedicated Press course.

At that time, Johnston Press was was a real family firm – with Fred Johnston at the helm. He decided I needed to drive and paid for my lessons, then wrote me a cheque to buy my first car – a £100 VW Beetle – and gave me a £2 per week rise to pay for it over a year!

I worked with many great colleagues during my time with the Falkirk Herald and Cumbernauld News – some sadly no longer with us.

Describe briefly how your career has unfolded between your first media job and where you are now.

I loved my time in local newspapers, but decided – after 17 years – there was a big wide world out there and it was time to explore it.

A freelance career beckoned – but it was not to last for long. My freelance work was almost exclusively for the Daily Record and Sunday Mail – and within a year I was offered a staff job with the Record. The picture editor at the time was Andy Allan – a great guy and great boss, who was so supportive to all his staff and is missed by all who knew him.

Over my years ‘on the road’ I was fortunate to photograph events at home and abroad – news, sport and features. Two of the most harrowing were to Somalia and Rwanda covering the aftermath of famine and genocide, along with Anna Smith – who was chief reporter at the time. In situations like these you need to go into ‘professional mode’ – you are there to do a job – the emotions have to wait until later. But they do come.

I was offered the job of night picture editor – after showing an interest in the management side of the department – by the then editor, Terry Quinn, and picture editor, Stuart Nicol .

Any particular big breaks along the way?

My first big break was getting my first job at the Falkirk Herald – and having such supportive people around me. And there cannot be many who have worked for father and son editors – Ken Waddell was my first editor at the Falkirk Herald and I also worked with his son, Bruce, during his time at the Record. Joining the Daily Record was always an ambition of mine and I’ll always be grateful getting the chance to realise that ambition.

Who would you like to thank more than most?

How can you single out people when there have been so many who have helped and supported you along the way?

There are also many I’d love to say thanks to – but they are sadly not with us – Andy Allan, who I’ve already mentioned, and two of my close friends and colleagues during my local newspaper years – George Guthrie and Euan Pitcaithly. Gone, but never forgotten.

One person I’ve turned to for advice and friendship over the years is former Record staff photographer, Richard Parker – one of the best – and still freelancing!

I’ve also been supported over the years by my family and a close group of friends. A couple of years ago I had a tough time, personally, and had great help getting through it from all at the Record.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you started?

If I had the chance again, I reckon I’d probably have done much the same. You get out of a job what you put into it – but that also means giving something back. It’s great to see younger colleagues do well and I’ve also tried to offer as much support and advice as I could to help them develop their career in our great industry.