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What I See column: Great storytellers like Peter Sweeney have common touch

Peter FiorenzaMidwest Times
Former Geraldton Guardian and Midwest Times reporter Peter Sweeney.
Camera IconFormer Geraldton Guardian and Midwest Times reporter Peter Sweeney. Credit: Francesca Mann/Geraldton Guardian

From my early teens I have been interested in journalism.

Media back then — in the early 1980s — was a somewhat different beast to what it is today.

Back then it was television, radio and the printing presses that carried and controlled opinion.

And being a journo or a reporter seemed to me like a great adventure, finding out all about people and places — making the world seem such an exciting place. One man that certainly grabbed my attention was British journalist Michael Parkinson.

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Parkinson (or Parky as he is fondly known) has had a big following due to his talk-show prowess but it was the story of his early days in the industry that had me hooked. When he talks about his days on Fleet Street, he romances about the connections he made after work each day that helped to create his copy (articles/stories).

“It used to all happen after 6 o’clock in the pub,” he recalls. That’s when you’d go down the local for a pint and get talking to the patrons. They knew everything that was going on.”

Parky suggested talking to the barmen or barmaids certainly provided some great leads for stories. “And gee, there were some wonderful characters,” he said.

And you can understand why Parky would have got some terrific yarns to publish. There is no doubt his personable nature is his biggest attribute. The fella has such a disarming disposition, one that makes everyone he talks to feel comfortable in his company, and that has allowed him to become a great storyteller. The man has and, I’m sure, continues to command respect — from politicians to celebrities and the average person on the street in much the same way a journo friend of mine does.

I have only known Peter Sweeney, pictured, for a relatively short time, but I knew of him well before that.

Growing up and harbouring the idea of one day becoming a journalist, I used to religiously read the Sunday Times. In the 1980s and 90s, it seemed to be the centre of the print world in this State.

Sweeney was part of the pack of reporters who took stories from the street and returned them to readers.

His stint at the Guardian showed nostalgic glimpses of yesteryear in his original writing style that made a simple yarn jump up off the pages.

His retirement from the typewriter, keyboard, laptop, recently signalled a sad reality.

Media has changed for better or worse but, regardless, the shift is real and I am so disappointed about that. Peter, you were indeed one of a sadly lost breed.

But your contribution as one of those great storytellers has certainly not gone unnoticed.

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