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Outgoing BBC East boss Tim Bishop talks about journalism and his new role at The Forum in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 06:30 16 April 2012

Tim Bishop at The Forum in Norwich.  Photo: Bill Smith

Tim Bishop at The Forum in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2012

He has been part of the Norfolk news scene for more than two decades, but soon he will be taking on a new challenge as chief executive of the trust that runs one of the city’s landmark venues.

Emma Knights speaks to Tim Bishop, the outgoing head of region for BBC East and former editor of the Evening News about journalism and his new role at the helm of The Forum.

“I only ever wanted to be a journalist. I’m really nosy, and there is something about all the very privileged positions you find yourself in as a journalist.

“You get to find out about people, about how things work, and it is like having a window on current history.

“You feel part of all of that and get a chance to see it close up – and if you are a bit of a nosy busy-body there is not anything better!” said 54-year-old Tim Bishop, currently the top man of BBC East and who has spent the past 30 years in the media industry – more than 20 of those in Norfolk.

“It is as much fun as you can have and be paid. I do not think there is a day that I haven’t found something to enjoy, and perhaps the ones I enjoy the most are the really tough ones,” he added, stating he stands by the classic phrase that journalism is to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.

After studying history and politics at the University of Warwick, and training at papers in Hertfordshire, Mr Bishop moved to Norfolk in the mid 1980s to work for the Evening News’s sister paper, the Eastern Daily Press.

He ran the Great Yarmouth office of the Mercury, EDP and Evening News before returning to Norwich as the news editor of the EDP.

Following a spell of lecturing on the NCTJ course at Highbury College, he returned to Norfolk –this time to be the editor of the Evening News, leading the paper for four years before moving to the BBC as education correspondent.

From here he became editor of Radio Norfolk, then the BBC’s news gathering editor for the east of England, and later editor of Look East. For about a decade he has been head of region for BBC East, the biggest BBC region in the country which incorporates Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

When asked which stories most stick in his mind throughout his journalism career, he said: “You perhaps always remember the really big tough stories the most.

“In the papers I think it was the death of a little girl in Great Yarmouth called Leoni Keating. It was a terrible story about a girl being abducted from a caravan site in the mid 1980s.

“In Look East it was Tony Martin and also the Soham and the Suffolk murders.

“In specific instances in each of those stories we did things that people might not know about that actually were very moral and very honourable decisions, and in each case there was something that we did that I think I will be proud of until the day I die.”

Mr Bishop’s passion for his profession of 30 years and the media organisations he has worked for are evident.

He said: “I feel as I leave the BBC it is in a really good place in lots of ways. Radio Norfolk has now got more local born and bred presenters than it has ever had and it is resolutely and robustly about Norfolk life.

“People are very keen to knock the BBC but we would all really miss it if it went. I still love it – I see its faults as well but there’s something about it, a bit like I will always love the EDP.

“A world without the BBC would be a lot poorer.”

He said it feels “very strange” to be leaving the BBC, but at the same time he feels like his new role as chief executive of The Forum Trust has a natural correlation with his old one.

“I think there is a bit of continuity, funnily enough. The Forum, like a newspaper or like a radio station, has a sort of life in the community around it and it is a focus for a lot of different things. It is at the centre of a community.

“The BBC exists as a world class broadcaster and it is about community, democracy and citizenship.

“The only thing The Forum does not do out of all that is broadcast,” he said, adding that he was relishing the challenge of building on the success of The Forum and its role in city life.

He will be taking over from chief executive Robin Hall, who announced his retirement at the end of last year after leading The Forum Trust since 1997.

“When you ask people to describe The Forum, most people say it is a great building,” Mr Bishop said.

“I want people to say it is a great building, and that it is known both in Norwich and Norfolk and maybe beyond as something that celebrates the best of what Norwich has to offer.

“For example we [Norwich] are a centre of technology, science and environment, and we need to reflect that back to the people of Norwich and also open that up to the wider world.”

Mr Bishop said he wants to find out what the people of Norwich want for the future of The Forum and help that become the reality.

“I think the thing about The Forum is that it is there for the benefit of the people of Norwich so where they have got ideas or thoughts The Forum is an open door.

“It is there to help great things happen in the city, and with a new chief executive comes the chance for people to say ‘have you thought about this?’ or ‘have you thought about that?’

“When I start in June I would really like to hear from people about that.”

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