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'Sub-editor of the old school' dies aged 72

A “proper sub” known for his attention to detail and guiding hand has died aged 72.

John Lees, one of the longest-serving members of the subs’ desk at the Newport-based South Wales Argus, passed away at the Royal Gwent Hospital on Sunday after contracting pneumonia following treatment for a serious illness.

After a thorough grounding in local journalism, John joined the Argus in 1973 and immediately established a name as a journalist who wrote fairly and fearlessly of what he saw.

But it was as a ‘sub-editor of the old school’ that he was best known and most highly regarded.

Lazy writing, bad grammar and most sinful of all, insufficient attention to detail, were not tolerated and there were few journalists who would test his responses in the matter of carelessness.

John, who retired from the Argus in 2006, was also known for his great sense of fun and a generation of younger journalists had reason to be thankful for his guidance.

Worcester News editor Kevin Ward worked under John as a junior sub-editor when he joined the Argus in 1989.

He told HTFP: “The Argus was my first daily paper and I was very wet behind the ears.

“John took me under his wing and taught me some invaluable – and often harsh – lessons about newspaper production.

“He was a proper sub. If you wanted a splash turned around on deadline, John was your man. If there was a hidden legal to be spotted, John was your man.

“Young reporters sometimes found him difficult to deal with but any criticism of their copy was always accompanied by advice that will have stuck with them throughout their careers.

“He’ll be much missed by everyone who worked with him.”

Argus editor Gerry Keighley added: “John was a sub-editor of the old school and was a master of his craft.”

John is survived by his wife Wendy and his funeral details are yet to be confirmed.


Angharad Lynch (22/04/2010 11:52:47)
John was a fantastic sub. As junior reporters we soon learnt that he did not suffer sloppiness, and the heart would sink when he’d call you over to his scereen to point out your sins! He mentored me as part of my training, and I saw a man who was patient, eager to pass on knowledge and had a wicked sense of humour – especially when sneakily showing me the raw copy of more senior journalists! One of a kind, that will be sorely missed.

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  • November 5, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Fond memories of John Lees during my time on the Argus subs desk (1975-80). Great fun, great attention to detail. “A three pipe problem” he would intone on picking up a piece of copy. Great days.

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