Goodbye Gorgeous George, the last of the hacks
Posted on the 17th Jun 2021 in the category sport

Is a word I would use to describe George Makin.
As in a Gnared Hardbitten Hack.
George wasn't a journalist he was a hack.
For those middle class journalists who were straight A students, took media studies and dress up to go to work he wasn't one of you, he was one of us.
A working class hack.
George didn't get his stories from press releases he got his best tales from talking to humans.
Probably with a pint in front of both of them.
As my favourite compliment about a journalist goes (and one I was taken in the office of the Birmingham Mail by a posh news editor for repeating it on the phone)  you couldn't have a shit in Walsall without George smelling it.
There is a curry house in Walsall with a tree in it, it was the place to be in the 90s and 00s if you were a public sector bod wanting to end your week with a flourish.
George would be lying in wait ready for them to unload. He didn't have a notebook or a dictaphone but he would have his wits about him. And to use his wit to be good company as those around him, loosened their lips to unload. 
And whatever their motive, and there can be many, they gave him titbits, a steer here, a steer there.
The kind of one line throwaway line that would have turned George's stomach with that unique feeling of knowing a scoop was in play.
I'd listen to him the following Monday morning as he would try and stand up whatever tale he would have been told.
I was fresh to reporting trying to work out a way to turn my unrivalled cast of contacts and their bonkers tales into front pages.
The Walsall Advertiser team were the likable gunslingers of the newsroom. Edited by the loud, brash and brilliant Natalie with the affable bloke-next-door Ian Edmunds (RIP), the brainbending talent of John Newton and George. I wanted to be on their team but was scared I wouldn't cut it.
I'd earhole George despite being the other side of the office. He was a good ten years older than me but, unbeknownst to me then, had only been in the game couple of years before me.
But for all I knew at the time he was the star reporter at the Walsall Advertiser so I listened.
I listened, where others in the newsroom would have heard, George argue with press officers about stories.
He would call them liars. He would not back down. Even as you could hear his story fall apart he would not back down.
The thing is if you are a hack stories will fall down for the lack of being able to stand them up.
But just because you can't publish a story because of the legal requirements needed for your employer does not mean its not true.
And George would take the indignation of knowing a story was true but could not be published into the next story he was told.
And again, and again after that until he could stand a story up from a drunken tip off and write a front page which would effect every Walsall taxpayer..
I bristled at the snide comments about George. His attire, his growliness, he didn't drive, his half baked ideas (my favourite being when he walked into an Advertiser news meeting and declared they should write national news if nothing was happening) and lack of production.
One exclusive takes the work of 20 press release rewrites but probably has 2000 times the impact.
But the bean counters who've driven journalism into the ground don't care about society's good but only if their balancesheet's were bad.
So George was made redundant from the job he was perfect for. And his like, working class people who lived a life before journalism and saw the game as a trade not a profession, are no longer wanted or welcome in new world churnalism. 
I'd landed on my feet head first from my Obamaescapade with a job at the (Mighty) Halesowen News but always remembered George's comment when every former colleague was giving their critique of me after some buttoned up BBC type said I'd wrecked the reputation of British journalism with my viral hilariousness.
"Adam is the only journalist I've met who can walk into a blizzard and walk out the other side with ten stories not about the snow."
I took it as a compliment. I think it was meant as one.
So it saddened me when I saw a brilliant hack scratching around for PR work when his calling needed him more than ever. A job came up in my newsroom and I told him about it, he got an interview and I gave him some pointers the night before.
After his interview I heard the snarky comments about his unironed shirt, his over-emphasis on exclusives and admission he likes a good argument about stories. Hacks don't get employed anymore so I phoned him and told him he wouldn't be getting the job so he would not build his hopes up thinking he would be an asset to a newsroom only to be let down. His personality was too big for that part of the newsroom I didn't tell him I'd heard the phrase "we don't need two Adams here." I know he appreciated my honesty.
Fast forward a few years and it was me who was in the wilderness and him back in the game. I was so happy he was a Local Democracy Reporter and could read Appendix to find nuggets. He was covering Sandwell, a place where my shit smelling is unsurpassable, so I gave him tips when I was in London and back at home bashing out Soft Drink / Hard Area.
I saw him on the train in December 2019, he was on the way to a newsroom which is my natural environment but I was dressed head to toe in Labour apparell on the way to a much needed temporary job during the election.
We chatted, I could see the pity in his eyes as he asked me about any journalism opportunities despite both knowing I'm effectively blacklisted in Brum. But, more importantly I could see how happy he was when I explained there was an opportunity for an investigative journalism gig in Glasgow but I'd sacked it off because "I'd met the one" at a daytime rave in Perry Barr and wasn't going to leave her and Brum only to be made redundant in a few years.
He said: "Sounds like you've finally grown up, I've always said you'd be unstoppable if you settled down."
Since then he was always there with a comment about on Facebook ribbing me how I've ended up with a woman like Natalie. 
He was going to meet her for the first time on Sunday "to prove she's real" but he got spiked before that could happen. 
He was respected and rated by those who knew anything about journalism but more importantly he was loved by his wife and family and they will  be missing him more than anyone.
As for me, George is another reason why I should get my shit together and keep the flag flying for us dying breed of hacks. 

Read George's last ever story - here!


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