I spent 14 years working in newspaper offices in Priestgate in Darlington town centre. I first crossed the threshold as a newly qualified trainee and left as the editor of The Northern Echo. I worked the night shift on the Echo and the day shift on the late Evening Despatch. In many ways the office defines a huge slice of my life. With people who were to become lifelong friends, we covered four general elections, the disasters at Lockerbie, Zeebruge, Heysel, Bradford and Hillsbrough as well as the Falklands war, Margaret Thatcher's resignation and the Ripper's arrest. We watched Priestgate change from a hot metal rabbit warren with its own Press to a computerised open-plan office. But it was always our Fleet Street, the hub around which our lives revolved. We strolled out from time to time to go to the Red Lion, the Britannia, the Flamingo and even home, but we were never very far away. Some great newspaper characters have stalked the corridors of Priestgate. W.T. Stead, Harold Evans and David Yelland are among the most famous but you would be hard pushed to go into any newspaper or broadcasting office in the land and not find someone who had cut their teeth in that Victorian building on the corner of Priestgate and Crown Street. My 14 years pales into insignificance, though, compared with the tenure of award-winning writer Mike Amos, MBE. He was the news-editor when I arrived in 1979 and is still there today, having racked up 45 years. This weekend it was announced that The Northern Echo and Darlington and Stockton Times are to leave the building after 150 years. It will be consumed by the shopping centre and probably become Debenhams. Who can blame Newsquest from selling it? It is no longer necessary to have such a huge town centre building to produce a newspaper. And if I was sitting on a multi-million pound asset that was surplus to requirements, I would cash it in too. But that doesn't mean it isn't a sad day and that a big chunk of North-East history will disappear with it. On hearing the news one of my old colleagues, Red Williams, summed it up in an email: "A sad day not just for the likes of us but also for the people of Darlington, a genuine North-East powerhouse of news and sport moves on...brings a tear to the eye mate."
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