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Editor stands down after 36 years in charge

One of the longest-serving editors in the recent history of the local press is to retire this month after 36 years at the helm of one paper.

Jeremy Plews was among the youngest editors in the country when he first took charge of the Mansfield Chronicle Advertiser – “Chad” – at the age of 28.

Now he is finally bowing out after what is believed to be one of the longest editorships of a single regional press title since the Second World War.

Originally appointed during the proprietorship of W.J. Linney and Co, he stayed on after the paper was taken over by Johnston Press in the mid-90s to become one of the industry’s great survivors.

Said Jeremy: “It’s been a great career. I wouldn’t – probably couldn’t – have done anything else.

“The biggest challenge has been trying to cope with constant change – and not always succeeding very well.

“When I started newspapers were all about hot metal, armies of production staff in smocks, ‘sit-up-and-beg’ typewriters for reporters, a five-and-a half-day week, and hours spent ‘working’ in the pub after deadline.

“Any thoughts back in 1965 that one day all of us would be using the kind of technology we now take for granted would have sent the Samaritans’ switchboard into meltdown. That’s not to mention the arrival of the digital revolution!”

Jeremy’s long stint as Chad editor has seen dramatic changes in Mansfield with the demise of the coal industry on which the Nottinghamshire town once depended.

Under his editorship the paper successfully campaigned for the restoration of the town’s rail link – enabling Mansfield to shed its unwanted tag as the largest town in Britain without a railway station.

‘It’s impossible for me to pick out one story as the highlight. But there’s no doubt about the biggest news event. It was the year-long miners’ strike 25 years ago,” he told HoldtheFrontPage.

“It divided the Nottinghamshire coalfield down the middle and presented us with the onerous responsibility of reporting on the bitter divisions between members of the NUM and the UDM week after week, whilst trying to remain impartial. I like to feel we almost succeeded.”

Jeremy lists his “biggest single achievement” as turning a 27,000 free distribution edition of Chad into a paid-for in the 1990s and achieving a sale of more than 14,000 copies in a matter of weeks.

He served on the NCTJ Training Committee and, under his leadership, the Chad developed an industry-wide reputation as one of the best “training papers” in the country.

Among the journalists who started their careers there were Simon Irwin, now editorial director of the Kent Messenger Group, and Mike McCarthy, North of England correspondent for Sky News.

Said Jeremy: “It may sound cheesey, but there is no question about the best aspect of the job over the years – being able to give a first break to so many youngsters, and the satisfaction gained from seeing many of them go on to success elsewhere.”

Jeremy is to be succeeded by another journalist who has devoted her entire career to one paper – Tracy Powell of the Worksop Guardian.

Mother-of-two Tracy, 41, joined the Guardian in July 1988 as a trainee reporter and worked her way through the ranks before becoming deputy editor in 2001.

“I am excited and delighted at this new challenge,” said Tracy, who takes over at the Chad on Monday, 16 February.

Her current editor George Robinson – another Chad alumnus – said: “I am very sad to be losing Tracy – it’s like having my right arm cut off!”

  • Is Jeremy the longest-serving editor in Britain? Contact us at editor.htfp@and.co.uk if you know different!

    Comments

    Colston Crawford (04/02/2009 09:53:53)
    “believed to be one of the… since the second world war.” Bets well and truly hedged! He’s certain to be among them, no?

    Jim Brennan (04/02/2009 13:09:19)
    Congratulations to Jeremy. This takes me back to CHAD history and the days of pre-NCTJ training.   During my 10 years at the Nottingham EP I became involved with plans for extending the NUJ-Editors’ Guild occasional day-release and weekend courses.  Inspired by Charles Forrest, ed of Derby ET, an East Mids Cttee was set up. The late great David Greenslade, ed-in-chief at CHAD, became chairman, and yours truly secretary-dogsbody (usually taking the shorthand notes).  I recall David taking me to a London meeting in his Jaguar: it was the first time in my life (in my forties) that I travelled on land at 90mph. His sadly early death was a blow to the cttee, but fortunately CHAD remained involved, and it is to Jeremy’s great credit that he has kept the faith for so many years.

    Hackette (05/02/2009 09:56:12)
    Well done for lasting so long.
    Let’s hope he is not the last of the truly local editors living on the patch and knowing what he is talking about and fighting for the paper. Instead of some remote toadie sucking up to higher management that is becoming a much more common species across the industry.

    Jon Clements (05/02/2009 10:14:22)
    He certainly gave me my start in newspapers and a lot of freedom as a roving reporter when Chad set up a new district edition to compete with the Newark Advertiser in its rather snobby heartland, where the Chad was seen as bit, well, rough. It was a great paper for the trainee reporter: serving a small town with a lot of hard news and a great sense of camaraderie in the newsroom. Happy retirement Jeremy!

    Wayne Swiffin (05/02/2009 20:47:13)
    Good Luck Jeremy. I can remember my first visit to Mansfield in 1995 for my interview at the Chad. It was a great training ground and a superb place to work – many of the skills I learned there I still use today. I also had the pleasure to work alongside Tracy at the Worksop Guardian for a brief time so good luck to you too Tracy.