SCMP Anniversary

I know it sounds like a cliché but I think I must have been born with printer's ink in my veins.

I just love writing for the media and seeing my name on a story. And I have got to get my hands on at least one newspaper every day or I suffer from withdrawal symptoms – immediately. And when I say newspaper, I mean the big solid thing made out of actual paper, not some flickering computer screen.

Well all right, I'll admit my habits have changed a bit over the years. I do go to the CNN, BBC and RTHK websites every morning first thing in the office.

But then my hands start shaking and I've just got to get my sweaty palms on a real paper.

Where did all this come from? I think it started right back when I first arrived in Hong Kong in 1972. I taught English for a few weeks to keep the wolf from the door, but I had always had a secret desire to be a reporter.

It was no good approaching the Post – then as now the paper of record, at least in English – because it was way above my station. After all I had precisely zero qualifications or experience.

So I went round to the offices of The Star, a rip roaring tabloid , and incredibly was hired on the spot. Apparently the paper had a policy of giving anyone who walked in a job for three months. If after that time they could produce stories, they got a contract, if not, then out the door you went.

I still remember my first story: about the sharp rise in the number of dog toilets being provided by the old Urban Services Department. Ah those were the days.

We had a love/hate relationship with the Post at that time. We loved to get one over on them by getting a story out first, but that always ran the risk of going too soon with a shaky rumour. Sometimes we only knew we had got a real story when it was followed up in more detail (and dare I say, more accurately) by the South China the next day.

But I was still allowed to be one of the first members of the Hong Kong Journalists Association back in 1973.

Times pass, I got sucked into the public service (ICAC in 1974, then Government in 1980) and it wasn't until I retired in 2008 that I could think about resuming my involvement with the press.

Since I'm too old for the ambulance chasing side of things, I pitched myself as a serious columnist. And having been scrubbed up by all those years on the taxpayers' payroll, I took a chance: at last I felt ready for the Post. Much to my delight, the Post now seemed ready for me, and I have a regular column on the Op Ed page every two weeks.

And it's all mine: no-one tells me what to write about or what line to take, I have carte blanche to spew out any old rubbish that comes to mind. And incredibly, they print it. What could be better than that? Any day now I'm hoping to get my photo on the column – I've even gone on a diet so I'll look better.

Do I read the Standard? Of course I do, it's feisty, it's fun, it reminds me of my old days on the Star. (A recent story about small size of flats inhibiting procreation was headlined "Too tight for sex". Straight out of the Star locker!)

But when it comes to serious news and in depth reporting, well it just has to be the old South China.

Happy Anniversary!