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Doyen of journalism training Greenwood dies aged 87

A doyen of journalism training who co-authored the industry’s media law bible for more than 30 years has died aged 87.

Walter Greenwood, who co-edited McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists with Tom Welsh, died at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle on Sunday evening.

A former assistant editor at Thomson Regional Newspapers, he moved into journalism training in the 1960s, helping found the group’s training centres in Newcastle and Cardiff.

Despite suffering ill health, he continued to play a part in the Newcastle centre, now run by the Press Association, and was still checking papers for media law exams at the centre until a month ago.

Tony Johnston, head of Press Association Training said: “Walter Greenwood was a dedicated, influential and moved loved figure in journalism training and media law for nearly half a century.

“As co-editor of Essential Law for Journalists he cared passionately about ensuring that journalists could stay within the law but still get their stories published.

“Even as his health worsened his appetite for news and his desire to keep in touch with changes in the law never waned. He followed the careers of every trainee who passed through his hands and had a phenomenal memory that allowed him to recall every name, every face and every law exam result going back nearly 50 years.

“He continued to work with the trainees in Newcastle right up until 12 months ago, setting and marking exams. We will all miss him greatly.”

Mike Dodd, legal editor at PA added:  “The Greenwood way was to know as much law as the lawyers so that if you published you might be damned but you would rarely be sued – an approach which has served generations of journalists well.

“He always understood that what an editor wanted to know was not why a story should not be published, but how it could be.”

Walter began his career as a reporter with the Dewsbury Reporter series, and later joined the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette as deputy news editor.

Until recently he was also the head of the National Council for the Training of Journalists’ law board, helping set the standards of legal competence expected of all trainee journalists.

NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher said:  “Walter began his association with the NCTJ in the 1960s and remained an advisor on our media law syllabus and a contributor to the ubiquitous McNae’s which he co-authored and contributed to for more than 30 years.

“He was regarded with great affection and esteem by all who worked with him. Modest, good humoured, a true gentleman, totally professional and committed to standards, he loved newspapers and was passionate about journalism and training.

“I’ll never forget his kindness and support, and will always be grateful for his wise counsel and honest advice.”

10 comments

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  • September 30, 2013 at 12:28 pm
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    Walter was an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and thoroughly decent man. He was a great support to me during my early years in journalism, then later when I was editor. Walter made a huge contribution to the newspaper industry and he will be greatly missed by generations of journalists. My thoughts are with his family.

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  • September 30, 2013 at 1:05 pm
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    Sad to hear of this news, but pleased to have fine memories rekindled. Walter was an enthusiast, and an inspiration to many who met him. As a new editor with a tiny legal budget at his old paper, the Teesside Evening Gazette, Walter was happy to guide me through some sticky legal challenges for next to nothing. “How much do I owe you?” I’d ask. “Just send me enough to buy a nice bottle of claret,” he’d reply. And so I did – several times. He’d give his advice immediately upon answering his mobile: “I’m in the supermarket, but go ahead – I can push the trolley with one hand.” He’d then, from memory, guide me to the exact page of the latest McNae’s and talk through the issue as if he had the book in front of him. Best wishes to the Greenwoods and RIP Walter.

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  • September 30, 2013 at 1:44 pm
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    Walter’s enthusiasm was infectious, and his depth of knowledge awe inspiring. A great loss to us all.

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  • September 30, 2013 at 2:22 pm
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    Walter was a thoroughly nice man with an encyclopedic knowledge of media law. He helped me many times when I was Deputy Editor of the Sunday Sun and standing in for the boss. And I have fond memories of the law refresher courses he spoke at in Newcastle. He had a unique way of talking that somehow helped the messages to sink in. I never once witnessed anyone ask him a question he couldn’t answer on the spot.

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  • September 30, 2013 at 3:23 pm
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    So sad to hear this. It was a real privilege to be taught by this wonderful and warm gent, who knew more about media law than I know about myself! Thoughts are with his family, his real family and his extended journalism family, at this time. A big loss to the profession.

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  • September 30, 2013 at 5:01 pm
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    Very sad news indeed – it took me 30 years to get the chance to thank Walter properly for his inspirational training, although no one who trained in Newcastle could forget his pin-sharp legal mind (or the great pleasure he took in playing the recalcitrant Sgt Greenwood – the local copper reluctant to divulge a “scoop” to inquisitive aspiring hacks). He will be sorely missed but fondly remembered by his hundreds of former students.

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  • October 1, 2013 at 9:47 am
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    Walter was an absolute delight – a fantastic legal adviser but most of all a lovely, kind, courteous man. I’m very sorry to hear this news

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  • October 1, 2013 at 11:59 am
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    One of the great foundation stones of modern journalism.

    Sad, sad news. But what a legacy.

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  • October 3, 2013 at 10:56 am
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    I’ve got warm memories of Walter’s immense contribution to the Evening Gazette in the 60s. His enthusiasm and help to trainees through the decades has been equally great.

    A sad loss to the profession and to his wife Doreen.

    Mike Morrissey, Middlesbrough

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  • October 4, 2013 at 1:01 am
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    Walter’s legal genius was more than matched by compassion, restraint and humanity. He once told us he was sent to interview a man about his son’s death. But on arriving, he saw the elderly gent sitting in the garden, bathed by the dying rays of a summer’s afternoon enjoying his pipe, obviously unaware of the awful impending news.
    Walter quietly walked away.
    What class Walter Greenwood had!

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