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Editor bids farewell after 17 years in hotseat

A weekly newspaper editor has retired after 17 years at helm.

Mel Vasey, from Newsquest’s Ilkley Gazette and Wharfedale and Airedale Observer, started his career as a 16-year-old cub reporter with The Northern Echo, in Darlington.

Within six months he had made it to junior reporter and his talents were quickly noted by then editor Harold Evans, who later went on to edit the Sunday Times.

Mel was then promoted to trainee sub-editor at the Northern Echo, in 1964.

He said: “I left school as soon as I could and knew what I wanted to do.

“During my time on the Northern Echo I did the usual round of courts and general reporting but perhaps the story that sticks out most in my mind was the ‘big winter’ of 1963 when everything was frozen.

“I was sent up to the A66 to get through to the lorry drivers and motorists who were stranded there. Me and a photographer went to try to rescue them.

“It seems a bit stupid now looking back but we got through to these people and fought our way back to get the stories written up at 2am.

“Then it was back to work as normal at 6am. It felt like a big achievement.”

After leaving the Echo, Mel went on to work on a number of regional newspapers in the North East, before taking his first editorship in 1985 at the Bradford Star and Aire Valley Target.

He was then appointed editor of the Ilkley Gazette and Wharfedale and Airedale Observer in 1991.

In 2003, the Gazette was named Local Newspaper of the Year in the Newsquest Press Awards.

Mel added: “People are still really interested in local news and there is still a place for the local newspaper.

“It is up to those doing the reporting to provide that service and I have been very lucky with dedicated staff, many of whom have been with us for a very long time.”

Mel has been replaced by Sheena Stavert who, at just 21, became the youngest newspaper editor in Scotland when she took charge of Scottish Borders title the Peeblesshire News.

She moved to West Yorkshire in 1990 and worked at the Bury Times and Telegraph and Argus, Bradford.

Sheena has also worked for the Press Association, Wakefield Express and The Co-operative Group in their communications division.