Graduate success story

Name: Neil White

Course: BA (Hons) European Studies

Year of Graduation: 1984

Neil White always knew he wanted to be a journalist. His first foray saw him writing match reports as a boy on parks football in Coventry and trying to sell them for a few pence.

Nowadays he’s editor of a regional daily newspaper read by 100,000 people every day.

And Neil built the foundations of his future career at Wolverhampton Polytechnic through his BA (Hons) European Studies course.

He said: “At the time there was no such thing as a degree in journalism. I loved doing German at A-level and wanted to have the option to study abroad so European Studies looked the best option for me. “But as well as the elements of language there were also elements of politics and economics, something which has stood me in good stead today.

“It was a four year course, with one year in Essen, Germany. I made lifelong friends and there’s rarely a week that goes by that I don’t have some form of contact with someone from the course.

“I remember some of our lectures taking place in the back of the old John Ireland stand at Wolves’ ground.”

While at school Neil did a stint on hospital radio in Coventry where he interviewed the editor of the local paper. He continued with his broadcasting stint by reporting on non-league football matches for Mercian Radio.

The editor of the local paper he’d interviewed was now heading up the Birmingham Post and Mail so when he graduated in 1984 Neil wrote a letter asking him for advice and was offered a job interview.

He spent nine years as a reporter at the paper before becoming news editor at UK News, a press agency set up to rival the Press Association. From there he took the post as news editor at the Nottingham Evening Post.

In his eight years there Neil also held the roles of head of content and assistant editor. It was during this period he used his journalistic skills to good affect – to set up a reunion for his old classmates from his Wolverhampton days.

“I’m quite evangelical about my time at Wolverhampton. It was coming up to 20 years since I’d graduated and I thought it would be great to have a reunion. I started tracking people down. Firstly just close friends but then I started tracking everyone I could down.

“Nearly 60 people turned up and we staged it at the Students’ Union. It was brilliant to see everyone again.”

In 2006 Neil made the 16 mile trip from Nottingham to Derby to become deputy editor before being made editor in June this year. In his career Neil has covered an array of stories but some stand out more than others.

He said: “As a journalist we do get behind the scenes and have privileged access. Just the other month I met the Prime Minister.

“But there are three particular stories that stand out for me in the years I have been in the industry. “The first is being on the balcony for the civic reception in Coventry when they won the FA Cup in 1987. As a lifelong fan that was amazing. I was stood next to the manager John Sillett.

“The next is the Kegworth air crash on the M1. Just standing there on the motorway, seeing a plane strewn across the carriageway is unforgettable.

“The third is the death of Princess Diana. The impact it had on the country and the outpouring of grief we may never see the like of again. We came in and did 17 pages off the cuff. It affected people more than any other story I’ve ever dealt with.”

The news industry is changing alongside advancements in technology and the way people consume media is changing with it. Something Neil acknowledges.

“People are more interested in creating the news themselves through social media and blogs. Everyone thinks they are reporters these days. There is a huge appetite for breaking news.

“The media used to be the only people who were able to do that but not anymore although I always think there will be a place for proper journalism. We still have a role to play and all the blogs and social media feeds out there just cannot work to that kind of level.

“When people suggest newspapers are dying I say tell that to the many people we have helped through our stories; the family of a local woman found dead in India who we’ve helped get an inquiry opened into her death; the factory workers at local train makers Bombardier who we campaigned for to save their jobs; or the fundraising campaign we ran to help send water purification kits to Haiti.

“That’s the reason I come to work. Knowing there are 100,000 every day that read our paper. We have a powerful role to play and what we do can help change people’s lives for the better and hold those in power to account.”