The first week of the rest of my life
Until last Saturday Tom Latchem was TV editor of the News of the World. He describes how he has passed the time since the paper closed
Sunday 17 July 2011
Wake up at 4.30am, feeling shattered and with a sore head after a 24-hour drinking session to wave goodbye to the most exciting, exhilarating three years of my life – and to the many dear friends I met during that time. Bollocks, why did I agree to do the Sky News press preview when I was drunk? Still, got to be professional – and it's vital I get myself out there at a time of uncertainty. So I pull on my suit and leap into the waiting car. I have to admit, I'm not my usual jovial self as the hangover kicks in, but I manage an OK performance alongside former RAF man John Nichol. Nice guy, and he is happy to do the talking on the contentious News International stories while I describe the incredible moment we walked out of Wapping for the last time. Afterwards I go home and spend the day watching coverage of our last hours. The magnitude of all that has happened and the personal uncertainty about my future hits me. It is the first time I have seen any clips of the day, including the impassioned tub-thumping farewell speech from our editor, Colin Myler, and I am not ashamed to say I shed a tear. Usually, I'd be calling round my contacts to fill my story list and scouring the TV listings for potential shows to cover, filled with fear that I am about to get a dressing-down from the boss if my stories aren't good enough. It is liberating to feel I will never have to worry about that again but, at the same time, I am infinitely emotional, switching, moment by moment, from beaming pride to sadness to emptiness. Seeing Colin's warm words about us, and our unified march towards the waiting cameras, sends shivers down my spine: we made history but now we are history. Go to the pub to see my old colleagues. I'm amazed at how we have all rallied round each other. The bonds we have forged during this difficult period will last for ever.
Wake up early (again ... thought I was meant to be unemployed!) for an interview at a central London hotel on the Australian 60 Minutes show. Knowing that the interviewer, Ray Martin, is the Aussie Jeremy Paxman, I know he will pose some difficult questions and I'm not wrong. He really goes for me. But I have nothing to hide in this awful saga so I strongly, yet politely, deny any knowledge of phone hacking. He seems annoyed, but I can only tell him over and over again what I know to be true: that nobody who I worked with on the paper in its final days had anything to do with the terrible things the News of the World was being accused of. Those who lost their jobs were decent, proud journalists who have been left as hurt as anybody by what has happened. The grilling reminds me of my normal Tuesday morning – the terrifying weekly story ideas conference – and I can't help but raise a smile at the memory... and at the knowledge I may never be able to sit through another one. Go back down the pub with a load of former workmates (there's a pattern emerging from this period of unemployment) and drink into the early hours as we chat about the recent past, and the inevitable employment difficulties we will face.
Wake with a hangover, feeling utterly drained. The reality has finally kicked in: we are never going back to the News of the World. Sit in bed until midday with my laptop. I can't stop watching Colin's speech. You can tell he is furious at what has happened, yet he showed real dignity and honour. I am proud to have been able to say he was my boss, and I hope one day we will be able to sit down over a pint and talk about the great memories we shared over the last week. Some of my work pals are doing a trip to Thorpe Park but I just can't face it. A friend of mine, Nicki Slater, comes down from Harrogate and we go out for lunch to cheer us both up. A tenacious young reporter, she has been left devastated: she had been accepted on to the News of the World graduate scheme, only to see it snatched away days later. She had been looking forward to moving to London and starting a new life as a journalist, but now finds herself in limbo.
Go for a consultation with an accountant. At the moment, my future is up in the air, but if I am to go freelance, I will need to make sure my finances are in shape. Meet a lawyer contact of mine, who offers warm words. So, too, does a journalist friend who works on a rival newspaper, who I meet for lunch. Hacks I see later at a leaving do for a reporter on another rival paper are also supportive. I have made friends with some great people across the industry. The messages I have received from contacts, PRs, fellow journalists and even the public have been so heart-warming. It's good to know there are at least some people out there who feel sorry for those of us who are carrying the can for the actions of some bad people in the past.
Wake up with yet another hangover to find Rebekah Brooks has resigned, but I have more important personal matters to be worrying about. Go into work to pick up my bag, which I'd left in the office. We'd been told we could collect our things on Monday, albeit under supervision, but then the police moved the goalposts. It's insulting to think that we are being viewed with suspicion when we have done nothing wrong. I wonder what they thought they might find in my dictionary. I feel tarnished. Try to do my expenses and put through some story payments. I considered doing them last Saturday, but got to 6pm and decided I didn't want my last hours in the newsroom to be taken up doing admin. In the evening a lot of my former colleagues meet up for a birthday meal and lots of drinks. I think, with 83 days of our consultation period left to go, these social nights out are going to be a regular thing. I'm going to make the most of it!
Surfaced at midday after my first lie-in since we shut. Never could get away with that on a NOTW Saturday. Pottered about. Feels weird. I'll miss the buzz you only ever get at the NOTW when you're wondering if we've got a scoop that's going to get the nation talking (or you've written it yourself and know it's a belter). Ah well, at least the flat should stay clean – my flatmate will be pleased.
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