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Reminder of golden era of fair news journalism by award-winning journalist

With fake news prevalent and local journalism facing an uncertain future, this week sees the timely publication of A Capable Journalist (Y Lolfa), the autobiography of Derek Bellis, “a true legend of the industry” according to Dominic Herbert, News Editor at the Daily Mirror. Derek also happens to be the oldest working journalist in Wales.

Described as “trustworthy, tenacious and utterly devoted to reporting the truth,” again by Dominic Herbert of the Daily Mirror, Derek Bellis started working in journalism in 1950 on the North Wales Pioneer (a different publication to the present newspaper of the same name), at a time when, according to Derek, “news was king.” He worked on the Northants Evening Telegraph, Liverpool Daily Post and Echo, the News Chronicle and the Daily Herald, as well as weekend shifts on the News of the World in Manchester before starting his own freelance news agency in 1963.

In his autobiography Derek Bellis captures the changes in journalism over the past 7 decades of his working life, and looking back, he says that he’s grateful for all the rich experiences that he’s experienced, and which he says won’t be surpassed by his successors. Over the past few decades, modern journalism has changed “dramatically, unfortunately not for the better” - from the silence of the telephones in the press room to a severe decrease in the number of staff journalists. Tim Rayment of The Sunday Times describes the autobiography as a “chronicle [of] the transition from one era to the other”.

“I wrote the book simply because I think it is a story of change which is worth telling,” says Derek Bellis of his autobiography.

His time in journalism was interrupted by two years of exciting National Service in the Royal Marines, a year on active service with 45 Commando in the Middle East.

Amongst the thousands of stories which he’s covered are the Investiture of Prince Charles; the inquest where the Jeremy Thorpe-Norman Scott sensation originated; interviewing The Beatles on TV (which is still being replayed worldwide); a year’s coverage of the north Wales child abuse tribunal; the loss of 15 holidaymakers in a river tragedy; the astonishing story of a chapel minister who mutilated and photographed dead bodies, stories of murders that have shocked Britain, and of sabotage and firebombs, as well as more bizarre and humorous tales.

The autobiography has been dedicated to his contacts over the years who, as Derek puts it, “are essential to any reporter’s work”, and who helped him achieve the scoops.

With recent research showing that while newspapers can be read for an average of 40 minutes a day, those reading online can spend as little as 30 seconds glancing at a news sites. Despite this, Derek is optimistic that the press and traditional newspapers will long continue as “there’s nothing more satisfying than relaxing with a good ‘read of the paper’.”