Everyone's favourite journalist is now a well deserved award-winning journalist
Posted on the 19th Jun 2020 in the category sport

Everytime I sit down to write about a friend it seems to be an obituary, and frankly I’m sick of it. So instead of lauding the dead I thought I would herald the living.

Racial barrier breaking journalist Gurdip Thandi has today won Local Democracy Reporter of the Year.

This is a fantastic achievement and one that is thoroughly deserved by reporter who’s patch is the one he grew up in and lives in.

Gurdip has beaten off LDRs across the country to win the gong and it just a shame he couldn’t be at a glittering awards ceremony picking up his piece of fashioned plastic in person after a few bevvies.

He won by getting exclusives – he got ex-Walsall Council chief Sean Coughlan to reveal his suicide attempt after his political career hit the skids. I know exactly how Gurdo would have got this story, by being Gurdo. There is not a more likable fella in British journalism.

I’m guessing Gurdo would have spoken to Coughlan countless times before, about all types of things, big, small, insignificant and important stuff but when it was time to divulge an incredibly personal story it was only ever Gurdo he was going to tell.

And another exclusive was about the police being forced to pick up the £600,000 bill for tasers which the Government had bought but did not provide the rest of the kit.

Here is Gurdo’s introduction: “Hundreds of Tasers which do not work are being bought for police officers with one chief claiming they are only good for throwing at dangerous criminals.”

Funny and to the point, and how did he get this scoop, well he attended Strategic Policing and Crime Board meeting” probably on a rainy Tuesday night, which he had to get the bus back afterwards.

Gurdo first became a journalist 20 years ago at the Walsall Observer. A working class bloke from the community he would report on. And after getting the hardest job of all in journalism, the first one, he hasn’t looked back.  

One of Gurdo’s great skills is the speed he can bash out copy, Gurdo can talk none stop, do impressions of his bosses, create a dartboard with a picture of someone he hates on it, spend ages trying to hit that said person, relive him seeing Kate Bush and recreate a Barcelona Champions League winning goal with a screwed news list, but if a boss tried to ever catch him out by questioning his work ethic then Gurdo would just point to his basket, which was always full of copy.

I’ve seen editors scratch their head at this phenomenon, but Gurdo’s Gurdo. And that’s why everyone loves him, and if someone in the newsroom doesn’t’ like him, then they are the one who can’t be trusted.

Gurdo’s habit of always doing himself down, or taking the piss out himself, or always going for a pint during lunchtimes often means bosses overlook him for promotions or leave him out of discussions about the best in the newsroom when the facts speak for themselves he’s one of the best journalists of his generation, that is why this award is so long overdue.

But forget the news, where his talent really lies is music, I first heard about Gurdip when a mate of mine at the Walsall Advertiser Ian Edmunds would give me a copy of the “competition” the Walsall Obo (The Advertiser had Natalie the editor, John Newton, Ian Edmunds and George Makin whereas the Observer had Gurdip, and err, Gurdo) so I could read his Blog Rocking Beats page. It was hilarious and brilliantly written. He was never going to go to London but if he did he would pissed all over those publicly schooled types at NME, Melody Maker, Kerrang and Mixmag etc, I’ve always said he’s the best music writer of his generation, I just wish he’d do more.

I first met Gurdo at the Birmingham Mail, in my first week I’d had an absolute stormer with the Handsworth Riots and I could feel the resentment in the rest of the team, not Gurdo, I could tell he was genuinely pleased for me. He was in Walsall office, and happy to stay there, and I was in the Sutton office, and happy to stay there. And through hundreds of thousands of instant messages our friendship was born.

When the great redundancy of 2008 happened he was the last person to apply for voluntary redundancy, the Robinho of the journalism transfer deadline day.

To keep our friendship alive I asked him to write for Goggle-eye and asked him to co-present my new radio show, and the rest they say is history. Our first shows were chronic, he was awful behind the mic lacking confidence whereas I had all the confidence and was all the more chronic because of it. But we carried on and he grew into a fantastic radio personality. He could easily walk into a professional radio job if he wanted.

He went into PR for Wolverhampton Council which coincided with them closing everything down and expecting him to tell the world about it. As luck would have it, when he left that job I told him there was a job at the Kidderminster Shuttle if he wanted it. He didn’t believe how easy it would be to get the job, but get the job he did. And we got drunk that day as I knew he had the job before he did. And then we drank more when the great Paul Walker got round to telling him he had the job.

Gurdip took over a paper which had been produced by the same two fellas for decades but who left within weeks of each other. He made the paper more punchier and was not afraid to take on the town's police, council and anyone else who previously had an easy ride. It was great hearing him down the other end of the newsroom. Every big exclusive and award winning campaign I did at my time at the Halesowen News benefited from Gurdo's advice and angle ideas.

So for a few years he’d pick me up, take me to work, work together, drop me home, and do the radio show together. We saw a lot of each other, both good and bad parts and ended up like an old married couple, everyone would ask about the other one wherever we went. But life moved on and redundancies came round again and off to London I went, I missed him when I went, and I still miss him now.

Gurdip Thandi could be working for the best music magazine around, he could present a radio show on the BBC if he wanted, he could do a lot of things.

As it is he is a Local Democracy Reporter. When he started his career at the Walsall Observer, there was the Walsall Advertiser, the Birmingham Mail Walsall office, the Walsall Chronicle and the Express and Star Walsall Office. All those journalists dedicated to covering Walsall, now 20 years later thanks to Reach PLC closing down first the Observer and then the Advertiser, a town as historic and important as Walsall has one dedicated reporter – Gurdip Thandi.

Everyone in Walsall should celebrate Gurdip’s win today because by Christ, they need him.


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