I’ve spent a couple of nights this weekend being well and truly entertained at the theatre, as part of the Belfast Festival at Queens. On Saturday I was gripped by Huzzies at The MAC , in jaw dropping awe at writer Stacey Gregg’s dialogue – sharp, stinging, hilarious http://unitedagents.co.uk/stacey-gregg . It’s a play about a band, so the music was a big part of it – and the actors managed to convince us they were shambling gauche youngsters, and would then let rip with these amazing voices. It was funny and incredibly sad in turns, and reminded me, again, what it is I’m trying to do this year. The Guardian wasn’t so impressed http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2012/oct/29/huzzies-review and I do agree that the plot left us hanging – but that dialogue!

But then, tonight, I saw Enquirer – a performance piece written using interviews carried out with dozens of  journalist, and set in a stylised newspaper office in an empty office block http://www.nationaltheatrescotland.com/content/default.asp?page=home_Enquirer. We, the audience, followed the actors around as they went from meeting, to desk, to water cooler chat – it was very cleverly done, and the ‘office’ was full of almost art-like installations, made from phones, shredded paper, over-flowing waste-paper bins, while we sat on piles of newspapers.  As the piece explored the crisis the press finds itself in, after the phone hacking scandal, it came up with some pretty repellent stories. But it also captured the humour, and bad language, that are endemic when you work in a newspaper office – and the dedication of those who don’t have the budget to bribe police officers, or schmooze with expense accounts.

For me, it’s nearly 20 years since I worked as a newspaper journalist, but it reminded me with a pang how exciting that job had sometimes been – and how I’d wanted to do it since I was 13. And for the first time since I left the BBC, I felt a pang that I am no longer a (practising) journalist (I don’t think you stop being something like a journalist just because you aren’t actually doing it). I suppose it part of my identity for too long for me to be able to just shed that skin so easily - and anyway, as I keep telling myself, it’s not set in stone that I won’t be a (practising) journalist again. But this was also yet another case of my past colliding with my future. Tomorrow, I begin teaching at Queen’s University on the MA in Broadcast Literacy -and I wouldn’t be doing that if I hadn’t worked a journalist.

But the play was also partly about the very real prospect of the death of newspapers. A lot of the content centred on the tension between online journalism, and the printed word. Last month one of my oldest friends, who I met at journalism college, and who works for a UK broadsheet, visited. He was full of tales of woe about circulation and in particular, doleful about the future of the printed version of The Guardian. It seemed fantasical to imagine a UK media without The Guardian – the newspaper that has just exposed one of the biggest scandals of the decade. But the very next day other newspapers were reporting that exact story.

However, as I walked back to my car in central Belfast, what did I see?

Monday’s newspapers in Belfast



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