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Journalist who edited six weekly titles dies aged 65

Tributes from across the regional press have been paid to a former editor of six different weekly titles who has died aged 65.

Keith Newbery, described by friends as “frank and forthright,” held a series of senior roles in the course of half a century spent in local newspapers.

They included editor and publisher of the Chichester Observer and executive editor of the West Sussex Gazette, Petersfield Post Series, Bognor Guardian and Chichester Journal as well as associate editor of The News in Portsmouth.

Keith, who has died after a short battle with cancer, was also the founding editor of the Isle of Wight Weekly Post and latterly a columnist on the Isle of Wight County Press.

Isle of Wight-born Keith even successfully campaigned for a knighthood for close confidant and celebrity TV astronomer Patrick Moore.

County Press editor Alan Marriott said: “Keith’s death has shocked not just the Isle of Wight County Press staff, but the whole of the Isle of Wight.

“As a born-and-bred Isle of Wighter he was revered for his frank and forthright views and his deep love of the Island he grew up on.

“He will be sadly missed by not only his family but also the Island journalistic and sporting communities.”

Keith started in newspapers as a junior reporter on the now defunct Isle of Wight Times in his hometown of Ryde in the mid-1960s.

He became editor of the Chichester Observer in 1992 and stayed in that role for 15 years.

During his time at the Observer, the paper won two awards for circulation increases, and he oversaw the launch of the Observer Magazine.

On a personal level he took the Sports Writer of the Year title at the British Regional Press Awards a record four times, also re-lived his career in his autobiographical book of memoirs and anecdotes, Hacking It: Tales of a Very Provincial Newspaper Journalist, which was published in 2003.

Peter Homer, former Observer news editor, said: “Years ago, some old local newspaper journalists were in the habit of writing their own obituaries, to be kept on file ready for when they were needed.

“What a pity Keith Newbery didn’t write one for himself! It would have been modest, and laced with his trademark acerbic wit, but still an accolade to a very accomplished writer with an old hack’s sharp eye for what made a good story.

“Keith was at his best writing leaders – pulling no punches, but always fair, and honest enough to say exactly what he thought.”

The Observer’s current editor-in-chief Gary Shipton, who worked with Keith for many years, described him as a distinguished journalist and columnist.

“He was enormously admired, liked and respected by all who worked with him over many decades in the business.

“He will be best known for his weekly columns – which at one time included sports and tv critiques as well as his strong opinion pieces.

“The nationals tried to woo him to write for them in earlier years, but he would never forsake his beloved Isle of Wight.

“A strong and principled journalist he was a writer of enormous wit and wisdom – provoking outrage and mirth with every keystroke.”

‘His pithy reviews and comments were syndicated across many Johnston Press titles – especially Sunderland, Portsmouth, and Chichester – until he decided to write no more in March 2013.

“A strong and principled journalist he was a writer of enormous wit and wisdom – provoking outrage and mirth with every keystroke.”

Keith, who died on Friday night, lived in Winford on the Isle of Wight with his wife, Denise. He also leaves two children, Mark and Samantha, and a grand-daughter, Betsy.

His funeral is being held on Tuesday, 12 August in Ryde. A ‘Happy Reminiscences’ event is being organised for next month in Chichester as a celebration of his life.

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  • August 7, 2014 at 1:08 pm
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    Keith’s funeral is on Tuesday Aug 12 in Ryde but a Happy Reminiscences event to celebrate his life will be held in Chichester in early September for all former colleagues. Details later from the Chichester Observer.

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  • August 8, 2014 at 1:08 pm
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    What sad news of Keith. An enormous loss to the world of journalism.

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