ADVERTISER 150: ‘You don’t have to pay me if I’m rubbish’ Julia Hartley-Brewer tells the editor

Julia Hartley-Brewer back in the 1990s

Julia Hartley-Brewer back in the 1990s - Credit: Hartley-Brewer

We’re celebrating the first 150 years of the East London Advertiser asking famous figures who began their media careers on the paper what they remember of that little newsroom tucked away in the East End. One celebrity we nurtured, Talk Radio broadcaster and presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer, tells her own story of the year back in the mid 1990s when she was on our manor...

Julia Hartley-Brewer today

Julia Hartley-Brewer today - Credit: Archant

I can still remember my first week at the East London Advertiser even though it was more than 20 years ago.

Straight out of journalism college as an eager young hack, I asked the editor, Dick Tidiman, for a week’s work experience and told him he didn’t have to pay me if I was rubbish, but if I proved myself, he had to give me a job.

Luckily for me, he agreed to the deal. Even luckier, that first week I got the front-page splash story, which was about a one-legged murderer. The job was mine.

My friends from journalism college were stuck reporting on boring council committee meetings or writing picture captions about cats stuck up trees for their local newspapers, but I never had a dull day at the Advertiser, in the heart of London’s East End.

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Whether it was that BNP councillor on the Isle of Dogs, or extraordinary crimes, the aftermath of the infamous Kray twins, heartbreaking personal stories or hilarious tales from ordinary East Enders, there was a never-ending supply of amazing stories just waiting to be told.

This was all before mobile phones, Google and social media made it so much easier to find stories sitting at your desk. Back then, you had to actually go out and find them yourself.

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I would spend hours in police, ambulance and fire stations, the local Thames Magistrates’ court, at Tower Hamlets council offices and even just standing in the street asking if anyone had a story for the paper.

I’ll never forgive Blue Watch at Whitechapel fire-station for giving me a great story and then deliberately locking me out onto their beautiful roof garden for an hour while they answered a 999 call out! Not that the editor believed me when I did eventually get freed, of course...

What did I learn from my time at the Advertiser? That every supposedly dreary council decision or court case affects real people and their lives.

I also learned that everyone, no matter who they are, has a story worth telling —you just have to ask the right questions.

I’ll always remember my year in the Advertiser newsroom. It was the best training a news hack could ever have and, better than that, it left me with a lifelong love of London’s East End.

Congratulations to the East London Advertiser on 150 wonderful years—and to the next 150!

—Julia Hartley-Brewer

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