AFTER THREE DECADES REPORTING ON THE WORLD AROUND HIM, ITV CENTRAL NEWS EDITOR, GARY NEWBY SWAPS SIDES TO TELL PUKAAR MAGAZINE HIS OWN STORY.
There are very few people lucky enough in life to realise their dream job as early as their teenage years. There are even fewer driven enough to successfully pursue their goals, no matter how hard, and even fewer still that remain as passionate years down the line as they were when they started out. In the case of Gary Newby, 30 years working in the world of journalism only seems to have deepened his love for the profession.
It was as a student at Longslade Community College in Birstall that Gary stumbled on his calling. One of those lucky few to do so at the age of 14: “It was 1981 and I was politically awakened. There was violent unrest in the UK – IRA bombings, inner city riots and workers’ strikes – and across the globe there were wars and assassination attempts on both the US President and the Pope. I became an avid follower of the news and felt I wanted to be part of the process to inform.”
Like many who work in the media industry, his professional career began with two instrumental findings; a big break and a mentor: “My big break came after I saw an advertisement for a trainee reporter at a weekly newspaper in Leicester. The Editor, the late Roger Bushby, was a fantastic mentor. He taught me the value of hard work and perseverance – essential skills for any journalist. His passion for journalism, fairness, people and for fun were infectious.”
Later, Gary would move to an independent news agency based in the East Midlands. A team of reporters and photographers, they sold stories to newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations across the country, sometimes worldwide. In 2001, he made the move to ITV, working on crime and court stories before training as a producer and later taking up his current role of News Editor for ITV News Central.
As a reporter, now editor, Gary’s career could have taken him anywhere across the country. In fact, it could have taken him to many places across the globe should he have chosen that path. Yet he has remained, for the most part, in the Midlands, a fact he attributes to a love of its varied make-up: “The Midlands is rich in diversity and that makes it a vibrant place to live and work. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been reluctant to move, other than temporarily.
“The region, which includes my home city of Leicester, is diverse in ethnicity and race, religion, culture and geography. It allows journalists to reflect and celebrate its varied places, peoples and events.”
Alongside a celebration of its culture, the world on which Gary reports poses the ultimate journalistic conundrum: “The Midlands is also economically diverse with differing income, class and social background which raises challenges for journalists to ensure all voices are heard in the debates on policies that can affect all of our lives, disproportionately so for particular communities.
“It’s a personal highlight of my career to help drive diversity at ITV News Central. We’ve made significant in-roads to ensure our team is more reflective of the communities we serve. There’s a commercial imperative to reach the widest possible audience but as journalists, as individuals, it’s also the right thing to do.
Gary is one of many who face the daily challenge of providing equality of information and fair representation, the very core of ethical journalism. It is a practice that has tested journalists since the dawn of time and will remain an integral part of the profession. But in today’s ever- changing media landscape, there is another daunting challenge to tackle and it’s one that Gary openly admits to being baffled by: “Personally, for someone who’s first mobile phone had a handset linked by coiled cable to a battery the size of a breeze block, adjusting to changing technology has not always been easy.
“My solution, which is an idea I shamelessly stole, was to recruit a more technologically savvy and yes, younger, colleague to mentor me on the nuances of social media and the Internet. So, whilst I’m imparting years of news editor know-how to him, he’s making sure I retain a foothold in 21st-century technology!”
So how has 30 years in the job changed Gary’s perception of the world around him? “Journalism teaches you to question the now. It’s difficult not to be cynical of decision makers but then history has taught us to be challenging, questioning and inquisitive of all that’s going on in the current because it might turn out not to be what we think, or are being told to think, it is.”
Despite this analytical thought process, which ingrains itself as a defining characteristic in any good journalist, there is an infectious positivity to Gary’s world view. Faced with a stream of bad news on an ongoing basis, it’s often easy for us as an audience to forget that the world is actually a wonderful place. But this fact remains at the forefront of his outlook on life: “What journalism hasn’t changed is my faith in humanity. I have always believed in, and continue to do so, the good in my fellow citizen. Yes, there is much wrong with the world and there are evil people who do evil to others. But in this job I’ve met too many good people doing good deeds to think that humanity is declining in its respect and tolerance of others. Bad news makes the news because of its relative rarity.”
It’s clear that Gary has never fallen into the trap of taking the job he loves for granted. His commitment to equality, respect for diversity and passion for high-quality reporting restore an often-lacking faith in journalism. And with no career move on the horizon, may it continue to do so for many years to come.
By Jennifer Morris