I had a passion for photography from a very early age. My mum was a professional photographer in Brighton and Blackpool, and so there may be a genetic connection. I bought books on photography before I even had a camera, so I think it was in my blood one way or another.
I got my first camera when I was about 11, and there was no stopping me. Well, the cost of buying and developing films was a bit of a barrier for a poor high school student, but with every frame digging deep into my pocket money, i learnt the hard way, from my mistakes.
In my high school years, I don’t think I was particularly good at English, but I was one of the few that signed up to put together the school magazine, and as probably one of the only ones at school with a camera (and that’s including the teachers), I was the official photographer as well.
After leaving school I went full-on into writing… job applications. But after a series of jobs which didn’t fulfil my creative ambitions, I decided to start my own business.
I bought a printing company that also published a local newspaper. Ding-ding, round two. I was thrust headlong into a proper writing and photography role.
I learnt a lot about newspapers in a very short amount of time. You need to be. a fast learner when you’re self-taught! I sold it to a major publishing group for a tidy sum, and went to work for them.
The tech years
The newspaper I had revived, run and sold, was probably one of the first small publications in the country to use the ‘new technology’ that was sweeping the industry. Remember Wapping?
So when my new employer wanted to go the same way. I was there to help. And I did that for a few years, basically, streamlining newspaper editorial and advertising workflow systems, and then moving on to the next antiquated publisher to bring them into the 20th century.
But when there were no more publishers to modernise, I got back into writing, editing and taking pictures. It was bliss. It was my happy place.
I trained on the job to be a production journalist and, in turn, trained journalists and editors in successive systems, including Aldus PageMaker, Quark Xpress, Adobe PhotoShop and Indesign.
Always wanting to be leading the next wave of technology, I learnt to program for the web and designed, built and launched 12 newspaper websites for Scottish Provincial Press in 2001.
With a combined technical and journalistic background, I became Group Web Editor, before leaving to set up a web design agency Canary Dwarf, which was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the media metropolis Canary Wharf, and an apt analogy of my work on a smaller scale and echoing what had happened in there in the 1980s and 90s.
I took over the running of local portal Forres Web in 2018 and immediately developed a programme of works to rebrand it as Forres Local, built a new website to improve usability, develop its presence on social media and increase the throughput of regular local news, with a particular focus on video interviews promoting local businesses, organisations and events.
After six months, page views had doubled, and now exceed 100,000 a year. while on Facebook, videos have been viewed 150,000 times and page reach peaks at 20,000 a week.
As Forres Local expanded, it became necessary to create a standalone site for the leisure and tourism market. This new site was built from the ground up and provides a complete resource for locals and visitors. It is further enhanced by the addition of a companion app. Both carry an extensive directory of accommodation providers, things to see and do, places to eat and much more local information.
Online portals and media projects Forres Local and Visit Forres have come about as a result of decades of work in the news industry combined with the digital work required to bring these projects to market. I can provide media consultancy work to any organisation, whether commercial or social enterprise.
I founded Moray Media CIC on this principle and to date the social enterprise has brought Visit Forres and Forres Local to market with significant success in community presence and search engines. Both have become a reliable and trusted source of news and information in the Forres area, and we are progressing this work to do the same for Inside Moray.
These projects have received acclaim from other areas and we are in talks with other community organisations to bring similar portals to their area in due course.