July 2012: Gerry Northam

1970 Philosophy and Physics

Gerry Northam Keelite of the Month July 2012 What I am doing now:
I am a BBC current affairs reporter working mainly for 'File On 4'.

How did you get to where you are now?
On graduation I was appointed as a producer at BBC Radio Stoke-on-Trent. After that I worked in education television and radio magazine programmes. In 1979 I went to 'File On 4' as a producer. Since then I have also been the programme's editor and am now a reporter. I also occasionally report for current affairs television, most recently for 'Panorama'.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Maintaining a full-time career as a freelance reporter for the past 22 years. It is the best job with the BBC.   

Photo left: My final File On 4 recorded in studio 4 Manchester after 34 years on the air. Just before the move to Salford.

And your biggest mistake?
On three separate occasions I have left the BBC staff and its pension scheme to take up freelance reporting opportunities. Each time I put my pension pot into Equitable Life which then crashed and took a large slice of it away. Does this count as one mistake or three?

What are your ambitions now?
I plan to keep making programmes as long as anybody will employ me. Maybe I'll slow down as I'm now 65. But retirement is not on the agenda yet.

Gerry's Graduation Day What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?
Be sure you really want it, because it is a demanding and sometimes difficult life. If you feel certain, then get as much experience of journalism as you can... anywhere. And then keep your fingers crossed and your eyes open for job ads.

What made you choose Keele University? Gerry's Graduation Day
I knew that the dual honours system would suit my desire to delay specialisation and to study both humanities and sciences.

What kind of a student were you?
Randy. Reasonably diligent with essays and mostly well-behaved. Politically quite restrained by the standards of the late 60s. I was Union Secretary in my P2 (third) year.

How has Keele influenced your life?
It gave me the best possible start for a life of inquiry and investigation in a wide variety of fields. I have always been grateful for everything I learned in that wonderful campus setting.
Gerry's Graduation Day
What is your favourite memory of Keele?
The Foundation Year. It was the best single year of education I was privileged to enjoy.

What is your impression of Keele now?
I love it. It has grown enormously and developed new schools and courses. But the outline of the Sixties' Keele is still there if you know where to look.

Photo above : Gerry Northam and members of the Keele Oral History Group look at archives from the sixties and seventies for "Coming of Age" - Gerry, Phil Davies (1971) and Nici Hildebandt (1975)