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26.2 miles in under 3 and a half hours. Sounds easy on paper and I will be posting regular updates, the highs and the lows. Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Andrew Collins

Back in 1994, the editor of Q magazine decided not to put the new and upcoming band Oasis on the cover, or even to feature them in its pages. He said he would wait until they had a top 10 hit.

Did this guy deserve to be in the top job if he wasn’t prepared to take a chance on a new band? It shows he wasn’t a risk-taker. The first person to say no would be the man himself – Andrew Collins.

In a talk he gave to my journalism degree class on Thursday evening, he was very self-effacing, humorous, nervous yet composed. From his days illustrating Puzzler magazine, to the heady heights of working on five of the big six BBC radio stations (“I won’t do Radio 3 – I don’t like classical music”) and interviewing Rourke, Winslet et al at this year’s BAFTAs, he waxed lyrical.

I would be the second person to say that his writing isn’t memorably great (he would be the first, again) but I have always liked his style of broadcasting. His partnerships with Richard Herring and Stuart Maconie have produced some very funny and engaging moments and his radio shows were always lucid and gave the listener rewards for tuning in.

It was interesting to hear how, as a freelancer, he keeps having to ferret for work, grabbing bits here and there. I’m sure it’s not as much of a struggle as many others in his position, but I expected him to be constantly in demand. His work ethic does, provide some clue to his relative financial status where work is concerned. He very rarely works evenings past 7pm and never on weekends, unless it is vital.

He responded to the various questions with long, in-depth and informative answers and had the class enthralled. He is very modest and thinks himself very fortunate to have had the life he has been blessed with. A mixture of luck, cheek, begging, hard work and valid opinions has kept him near the top of his game for 20 years.

At the end of the session, I got to thinking about risks. As editor of Q, he received a call from a 16 year old girl who demanded to write the cover feature on the Manic Street Preachers, who were about to release their first album. He refused and some ten years plus later, he spotted the girl’s name again, this time as a political writer for the Guardian.

Tania Branigan has since won awards and accolades for her reporting. What would have happened to her if Andrew had given her the dream start? His magazine’s profile could have been raised and that could give hope to a trade that is very cliquey and difficult to penetrate. Would anyone have taken that risk? I think the worlds press could be a lot healthier if people did.

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