When I was offered the opportunity to be guest editor of Energy Voice this week, it took me a nanosecond to decide.
There were a number of reasons.
Let me share a secret. When I left school, I actually hadn’t intended to be a lawyer. I wanted to be a journalist. I liked finding out about new things and I enjoyed trying to communicate my interest and enthusiasm. That remains true to this day.
My parents (I know it’s a cheap shot to blame them) persuaded me that law would provide more stability as a career. Actually, more specifically they played on my baser instincts. I was the proto petrolhead and they said I would be able to afford a better car if I became a solicitor. So started a forty year career.
I could never let go, so I have taken every opportunity along the way to play at being a journalist.
The first attempt was at university. I became editor of what was called imaginatively ‘The Law Society of the University of Strathclyde Magazine’. It was a well intended, but in honesty rather boring publication that came out each term – very respectful with learned analysis of legal topics. The only trouble was that as soon as it was distributed, it would metamorphose into rather unaerodynamic paper planes. Given that we were studying Law and not Aviation Engineering, I decided a radical approach was required to distract the readership from advanced origami.
The magazine was relaunched as ‘Leisure Footwear’ – “Summing up the agony and the ecstasy of a generation”. It became gossipy, ballsy, irreverent. The production values were low – more fanzine than journal. And a funny thing happened. Not only did people start reading it, but they were keen for the next edition to come out.
Fast forward thirty years and I am chairman of Burness. We have a new strategy. How do we share it? So I started an online magazine ’The Beat’ which metamorphosed into TTO (Three to One) on the merger with Paull & Williamsons to form Burness Paull.
I guess what I have learned along the way that journalism is a brilliant way of cascading ideas and creating a community.
But the truth is that until this week, I had had no experience of being a “real” journalist. So what have I learned? Let me summarise:
1. The professionalism of the team is amazing. The energy that goes into ensuring that a story is properly researched and unique is palpable. It’s a job with an enormous responsibility.
2. It is incredibly hard. You start the morning with a blank sheet and in the course of the day fill it with new and unique reporting. Writing under time constraints is a real challenge.
3. It’s teamwork. Journalists don’t work in silos. They collaborate, supporting each other in developing stories.
4. The energy industry is fascinating. It’s global and fast moving. It is a resource that is literally of universal importance.
5. The car park does have some nice heavy metal in it; my parents sold me a pup.
So, Rita, can I come back next year?
Philip Rodney is the the chairman of law firm Burness Paull.