Esther Addley – Senior news writer at The Guardian
Course: Newspaper, 1999
If you weren’t a journalist, what would you be?
Archaeologist, no question – but it wasn’t a career that I imagined would have been open to me when I was at school. In fairness, journalism wasn’t either. Now I think, gosh, wouldn’t that be lovely, to be rooting around in the dirt? When I get to write about somebody uncovering something gorgeous under the soil, it’s a dream day for me.
What’s the best place you’ve ever got to go as a journalist?
I got to go to Hong Kong a couple years back to interview legendary war reporter Clare Hollingworth. She got the greatest scoop in history when she broke the story of the Second World War beginning. She was 93 when I interviewed her, and nearly blind. A truly astonishing woman, having flung herself all around the world into all sorts of danger zones just to get a scoop.
What was your best moment at City?
I really loved learning shorthand. It was the key to a whole new language. You don’t learn to write as a child while being conscious of what you’re doing. It’s amazing that these shapes can actually make a sound. Learning shorthand was like that for me – it was a slightly magical thing.
What was your worst moment at City?
We were given a page of the A-Z and we had to go to that location and not come back until we had a story. Twenty-five of us descended on East London and just wandered around trying to find something to write about. It was probably the scariest thing I did at City, but it was also one of the most helpful, as it helped me get over that fear of just going up and talking to strangers.
Who is your dream interviewee?
I’ve been watching the OJ Simpson documentary. He may be released from prison this year. That would be an extraordinary interview, not just because of his history, but because he’s really interesting in terms of his character and his life.
What is your worst journalistic habit?
We all have to keep an eye on our language. Journalese is riddled with cliché. There are little tics and stylistic things in your copy that you have to guard against. You have to work to keep your language fresh.