When did you first realise you wanted to become a journalist?
This is quite a difficult one to answer, as I can’t remember any definitive stage.
However, I’ve always been interested in writing and even during my days at primary school in the North East I helped create a fairly basic magazine with different stories in it.
How did you enter the profession?
When I was studying for my History Degree at Leeds University, I started writing various articles and music reviews and gradually began to get more and more of these published through various media channels including the BBC, Absolute Leeds, and Jumbo magazine.
The more I wrote and the more I got published, I began to think I could happily do this as a career and so in my final year at Leeds I started filling in application forms and was eventually successful in securing a place on a conversion course for a Masters’ Degree in Print Journalism at what was then Trinity & All Saints but has since been renamed Leeds Trinity University.
What was your first job in journalism?
Towards the end of my conversion course, I realised I wanted to stay in the Leeds area and so wrote to news editors for all the local papers within a 20-mile radius. The managing editor of the Telegraph & Argus in Bradford contacted me quite quickly afterwards and said he was currently recruiting for trainees.
I had to do a straightforward test to gauge my knowledge of public affairs, various bodies and associations a reporter may need to know about, and spelling. Then, after an interview with the deputy editor, I was delighted to be offered the job in 2004.
What was the first story you wrote?
There were all sorts of stories which involved simply re-writing press releases sent into the office.
I soon realised there was friendly competition to get a ‘page lead’ and a ‘by-line.’ As it was November when I started at the newspaper, my first page lead was about the annual Poppy Appeal. Soon afterwards I secured my first ‘by-line’ for an article about a disabled man who won an award for training staff in the factory where he worked.
What media titles have you worked on during your career?
In 2006, I started covering for the Business Editor at the Telegraph & Argus when he was away. I enjoyed the flexibility this gave me, having control of my own pages within the newspaper and building up an extensive network of contacts which was to prove extremely useful in future years.
However, in 2007 I began to get itchy feet as I saw trainees who’d started at the same time as me moving on. I was offered a day’s trial at The York Press, and this led to a permanent job. I’ll never forget on the day’s trial when the Deputy News Editor of the T&A rang to see if we could share some content with him. I took the call and tried to disguise my accent. With my North-East roots this was quite difficult, but at the end of the day I think I managed not to give the game away!
After six months at The Press, the role of Rural Affairs Correspondent was advertised at the Yorkshire Post. Having spent my childhood in industrial Redcar, I didn’t really know anything about the countryside or the issues affecting it; but realised a specialist role would be a career step and so I applied for the job and got it.
I’ve been at the Yorkshire Post ever since with roles including Deputy News Editor and later News Editor of the combined Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post. Whilst it was good experience working on the newsdesk, I eventually missed front-line journalism, being out and about meeting contacts and finding stories and so I was delighted when I applied for, and got, the role of Business Editor in 2016.
What’s your favourite story to have worked on?
I don’t know if ‘favourite’ is the right word as there were some difficult issues to deal with, but there’s one I particularly remember which I was proud to have worked on and made a change.
I was covering a late shift at the T&A one day when the phone rang and there was a lady on the other end who was quite clearly distressed and upset. She started to complain about a story I’d written only a couple of days before. This was a straightforward picture story about a local councillor opening a memorial garden. I struggled to think what there could be to complain about with such an innocent story.
However, she then poured her heart out about having been abused by the councillor in her younger life; and I realised this was becoming an extremely serious story.
Over the coming weeks the councillor was charged and taken to court where he was found guilty. I covered the court case and when the story was published the same lady rang to thank me for the coverage. I felt proud to receive her thanks and to have helped her in some way.
What’s the most difficult story you’ve worked on?
There’s no doubt about this. It was an inquest involving the tragic case of a dad who was reversing out of the driveway at his home and knocked over and killed his child. As well as the obvious horror of the case, I felt extremely emotionally involved as I’d just become a dad six months previously. In the end, I couldn’t write the article, and had to ask some of my colleagues to finish it.
Who’s the most famous person you’ve interviewed?
I feel extremely honoured and privileged to have met and interviewed the people I have done over the years including writers, actors, musicians, and politicians.
But the most famous must be Boris Johnson. This was just after he’d become Prime Minister and was visiting Armley Prison to announce the Government’s investment in the social care system.
Describe your working day
My working day starts as soon as I wake up by scanning that morning’s national media titles including the BBC and the FT to see if there are any major breaking stories. In between this, I’ll get the kids ready, before cycling into work listening to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on my journey.
I tend to get to my desk about 8.30am and will catch up with my two deputies before the full morning conference at 11am. The rest of the day will be spent at my desk writing stories.
Between 6pm and 8pm is always a hectic time getting the kids ready for bed but once they’re sorted, I’ll pick up any loose ends before finally ‘switching off’ about 10pm.
With deadlines and the fast-paced environment of journalism, it must be quite a pressurised and stressful job. How do you relax in your spare time?
To be honest, I’m not good at relaxing! When I do, I enjoy training for triathlons, cooking and watching a range of TV shows. I have enormous pride in my two daughters, aged eight and two, and try to enjoy as much quality family time as possible.
How do you prefer to be contacted by people (email, telephone etc)?
Phone, absolutely, every time! I get an enormous number of emails and find it virtually impossible to plough through them all. For example, I had 30 emails and just in this 30-minute interview that’s gone up to 75!!
What time of the day is best to contact you?
Definitely first thing in the morning before things get too hectic in the office.
How can people submitting news stories best grab your attention with their press releases?
Quite simply have a good story which is both interesting and relevant for our readers. All too often I see people trying to pass something off as a news story which is simply nothing more than an attempt to get free publicity for their business.
How important is it for people to supply photographs/images with their press releases?
I’m pleased you’ve touched on this, as it’s a really important point. It’s very often a photograph which makes a story and secures greater coverage within the newspaper.
What advice can you give on the type of photographs/images to supply?
Quite simply to ensure that they’re clear, good quality and high-resolution; with some meaning and creativity to them.
Contributors can supply their own photographs, but we also have a team of highly-professional staff photographers who are always happy to visit a business to cover a story.
Mark Casci can be contacted on Tel: 0113 243 2701 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org