Editor of an English-language newspaper in Spain, published author – Richard Torné’s CV looks like that of a long-established professional writer. But that isn’t in fact the case. It was only in 2003 that Richard decided on a career change that was to turn a pastime into a full-time career.
It was that which prompted him to enrol on the LSJ’s distance-learning journalism and news-writing course, he explains: “I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I had my own business running an English-language academy in Spain.
“That in itself marked a change as I had been a struggling musician up to that point, but I felt I needed a radical change. Doing the course was part of a long-term strategy and a conscious decision to go into journalism full-time.”
He might not have envisaged how quickly the course would pay dividends – although the fact that he spoke Spanish fluently helped him win a much sought-after job with an English-language weekly.
“The LSJ course provided me with the necessary tools and I also ended up with a useful qualification,” he insists. “The course itself was invaluable on many levels and I often still dip into my course work. But nothing hones your skills better that writing, obvious though this may sound.
“The funny thing is that it was often the seemingly innocuous advice given by my kind tutor that proved to be particularly useful, such as the importance of starting to write your article from the beginning, taking care with the all-important opening paragraph, because it is this and the headline that will set the tone for the rest of your piece.
“It sounds obvious, but very often the temptation is to do it the other way round by starting with a loose paragraph or transcribing an interview in full first. I’ve often found to my cost that this only adds time.
“The article also suffers, and can end up being unnecessarily convoluted. Curiously, it is while working under pressure that I’ve often produced my best work: copy that is succinct, concise and to the point.”
After finishing the course, he became a full-time journalist in 2004 and went on to become editor of the Costa Almería News in 2007.
“If I were to give any advice it would be to make sure you keep up-to-date with the law and know how the judicial system works – this has often caused me problems and bogged me down, which is why I try to get in touch with a lawyer to ask about specific laws whenever I can.
“Working for an English-language newspaper in Spain has been an eye-opener as I’ve also had to learn that things work very differently here.
“Whereas in the UK administrative and governmental bodies understand the importance of good relations with the press (and readily accept that asking tough questions can be part of a reporter’s job), in Spain they are still not used to dealing with the press to a large extent.
“People seem more wary, and administrations are still shrouded in secrecy, which makes a reporter’s job harder.
“But I’m proud to say that I have nonetheless had the odd scoop, mostly related to the illegal building scandal in Almería and on the 1966 Palomares nuclear accident and its aftermath.”
Another major achievement was helping a famed film specialist, Eddie Fowlie, to write his memoirs – David Lean’s Dedicated Maniac – which were published in the UK in 2010 shortly before Eddie died.
“I was lucky too because he asked me to write the book as a result of an interview he agreed to give me some years earlier,” Richard admits.
And what about his own personal challenges for the future? Translating his book into Spanish is one priority – and perhaps linking the paper with a local TV station, since his wife Susana presents a weekly TV programme.
But he is also quick to point out that not all the changes he has witnessed during his first few years in the job have been positive ones.
“News agencies, newspapers and other media are all cutting down on staff and expecting writers to do more for less pay,” he says. “There is also the added burden of having less time to research stories. I believe this is one of the biggest challenges facing journalists today.”