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Leeds celebrate activist Lazenby

Time Dawson with Pete Lazenby and his wife  -  © adam christie

31 July 2017

The National Union of Journalists in Leeds has honoured one of its longest serving members – to mark his 50 years in journalism.

Leeds and Wakefield branch organised a special presentation to long-time activist Pete Lazenby, attended by  union president Tim Dawson. Praised as the “Leeds dissenter” by Tim, Pete responded by saying that reps are only ever as good as the members, adding: “We weren’t a militant chapel but a human one. We would only put up with so much.”

He started his career as a teenager on the Wharfedale and Airedale Observer, based in Otley, a short bus ride from the Leeds suburb of Guiseley, where he was born.  After five-and-a-half years on the weekly, he joined the Yorkshire Evening Post, where he spent seven weeks short of four decades, covering the gamut of local news – from the Great Yorkshire Show to the year-long miners’ strike of the 1980s.

He also had the opportunity there to investigate the far right, producing front page stories in the run-up to council elections that affected the political landscape of Leeds and left him facing death threats. Since leaving the YEP in 2012, he has covered the north of England for the Morning Star.

Pete has spent many years as a key figure in NUJ branch activities in Leeds as well as being long-term father of chapel at the Yorkshire Evening Post at a time when the paper employed more than 100 journalists.

Tim Dawson, presenting a gift from the branch, said: “With his ornate moustache and flat vowels, Pete Lazenby is well known activist throughout the NUJ.  He has been a stalwart of collective action, however his greatest achievement was as joint father of chapel, maintaining union organisation at the Yorkshire Post/Yorkshire Evening Post through the dark days of de-recognition.  He has also been a well-spring of newsroom common sense in many of our internal debates.”

Pete said: “I started writing when I was nine or 10 years old – essays, made-up stories, all sorts. I enjoyed it, like a hobby. Then when I got to 17 and was ready to leave school – wonder of wonders! Joy of joys! I discovered that people were actually prepared to pay me to enjoy myself!

“And there was the union of course, the NUJ. I really do love my union, and the people who make it work, generation after generation, new activists coming through, carrying on the struggles, not just for decent wages, but for the truth, resisting greedy, rapacious, corrupt media moguls determined to feed millions of readers nothing but a combination of lies and titillation.

“I don’t often use a dictionary, but I looked up the word retire a while back. It said ‘the action or fact of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work’. Leaving one’s job?’ Bugger off! Ceasing to work? You what? Retire? Not a bloody chance.  When I eventually croak I’m going to have a little recorder stashed in my box. At the right point it’ll click on and the tap-tap-tap of a keyboard will be heard.

"Great fun!”

Tags: , leeds branch, peter lazenby, yorkshire evening post, reps, activists, local news matters, Wharfedale and Airedale Observer, pete lazenby