A career forged in Falkirk

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Kenneth Roy was just 16 when he started his career as a journalist – and almost 50 years later he’s still making the news.

As editor of the ‘Scottish Review’, he is a respected political and media commentator whose opinions are still sought on the pressing issues of the day.

Born in Falkirk and raised in Bonnybridge, the 66-year-old left Denny High School “at the earliest opportunity” so he could pursue his passion for journalism.

His news sense was still as sharp as ever when he spoke exclusively to The Falkirk Herald about his long career and the current challenges facing the press.

As a reporter for both local and national newspapers, a BBC news broadcaster and now editor of an online current affairs magazine, Kenneth is uniquely placed to understand the evolving nature of news coverage.

“Local democracy has to be nurtured by the local press,’’ he said. ‘’The future of the local press is much, much more important than the future of the national press.

“There will always be a replacement for national newspapers and the role they fulfil.

“The Falkirk Herald is far more important than The Scotsman. There are alternatives to The Scotsman, but The Falkirk Herald is the only source of information and opinion for that area.”

Kenneth’s job has taken him across the world, but it was in Falkirk that he first cut his teeth as a newsman.

Back in the early 1960s the district had not one but two weekly newspapers - The Falkirk Herald and the Falkirk Mail.

It was by the latter that Kenneth was employed straight from school.

“I had been a local Bonnybridge correspondent from the age of 13, so I basically had a job waiting for me,” he added.

“My working day consisted of attending the court and going round the police and fire stations.

“After the 11.30 a.m. court session we all used to pile into the Tudor tearooms. It had this huge round table, around which all these important guys, from the law firms and the local papers, used to gather. It was a very ritualistic social occasion and one that left a big impression on me.

“Three nights a week I had to cover the dog racing. It used to draw huge crowds. Myself and John Inglis from The Falkirk Herald would both be there.

“I could never understand why we couldn’t just pool our resources, but there was a huge rivalry between the papers at the time.”

The Falkirk Mail closed in 1962, but Kenneth and his chief reporter Frank Thomson – a former timetable setter with Alexander’s buses – both found work at The Falkirk Herald.

From there Kenneth went on to join the Glasgow Herald, aged just 19.

He subsequently presented BBC Reporting Scotland for almost 10 years, before helping establish West Sound radio in 1982. He returned to journalism as a columnist for The Scotsman and The Herald before establishing the Scottish Review in 1994.

Kenneth is positive about the future of the press, and claims “there has never been a more exciting time to be a journalist in Scotland”.

However, he is disappointed at the conduct of the on-going Leveson inquiry into press ethics, which was set up in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, and said that he now intends to write to Lord Leveson voicing his concerns.

“It’s basically become a rag-bag of grievances,” he said.

“I doubt that David Cameron thought when he established this inquiry that it would be examining opinion pieces that were published more than 20 years ago.”

The column in question was written by Jack McLean of the Glasgow Herald, and concerned the murder of a schoolgirl in 1991.

“The column was in very poor taste and I completely understand why it caused hurt to the family” Kenneth added.

“But the inquiry offered no warning to Jack that his name was about to be dragged through the mud, and he now has no right of reply.”

“It’s a disgrace.”