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Former North East assistant editor dies aged 59

A journalist who went to the same school as Tony Blair before enjoying a “meteoric rise” in the profession has died at the age of 59.

Richard Gibbon, left, worked on newspapers in the North East and later at titles on the South Coast during a career that began in 1972 and resumed, after a spell in PR and restaurateuring, in 1999.

He was a pupil at Fettes College in Edinburgh at the same time as the former Prime Minister and started his journalistic career at the Evening Gazette in Middlesbrough.

He then moved to the Gazette’s sister papers in Newcastle where he became first deputy news editor of the Evening Chronicle and, then assistant editor of The Journal in 1983 – the same year Mr Blair became a North-East MP.

Richard was also motoring correspondent of the Newcastle-based Sunday Sun from 1976 to 1987 and oversaw the launch of the Journal Business Magazine of which he was editor for several years.

While there he broke the world exclusive of Nissan’s plans to build a car plant in the North-East of England.

Life-long friend Steve Hughes, motoring editor of the Chronicle, Journal and Gazette said: “Richard was one of a rare breed of truly larger-than-life characters who was always fun to be around, with an inexhaustible supply of interesting, amusing and invariably exaggerated anecdotes with which he would regale fellow journalists and industry executives on the many vehicle launches he attended around the world.

“He loved journalism and always carried a note book and pencil wherever he went, proudly displaying an enviable standard of shorthand prowess. His meteoric journalistic career was interrupted at a relatively early stage when, as an assistant editor of The Journal, he was lured into public relations with the hugely-profitable Nissan UK with what was reported to be the highest salary in the business at the time.

“Had he stayed in journalism he would have undoubtedly been an editor within a relatively short time and, possibly, one of the great journalistic personalities of his era.”

Richard left the North East to become head of press and public relations for Nissan UK at Worthing from 1987 to 1992 before opening a restaurant in Chichester, West Sussex with his wife Louise, which won an Egon Ronay recommendation.

He sold the business in 1999 and returned to journalism as motoring correspondent for Johnston Press titles in the South including the Portsmouth News, Crawley Observer, East Sussex Express, Mid Sussex County Times,  West Sussex Gazette, Petersfield Post and Chichester Observer.

In recent years he suffered ill health and was cared for by his wife, who was well known in the North East as the former boss of the Newcastle-based Louise James model agency and a columnist for The Journal.

Richard died at his Chichester home last week. A funeral mass will be held at St George’s Church, Cleveland Road, Chichester, West Sussex on Monday 19 December  at 10.30am.

6 comments

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  • December 8, 2011 at 4:49 pm
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    I met Richard in the latter stages of his career and regret that I did not see him in his full pomp. A hugely charismatic and popular figure who I’m sure will be missed by those who knew him well and by a profession he so evidently loved.

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  • December 9, 2011 at 10:05 am
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    I knew Richard for 30 years. Steve Hughes summarises him nicely with the affection he deserves, even understating some of his attributes of which one of the examplars was ACTION, such as when Richard sacrificed a G&T over the back of an equally charismatic motoring “hack” to end some hot debate.

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  • December 9, 2011 at 1:57 pm
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    I worked with Richard (affectionately known as Gibbo) on The News (Portsmouth) motoring pages, week-in, week-out for years. He had a top sense of humour slightly marred by his tendency for winceworthy puns (just like me)

    Richard:: ‘Go on Dave, please use this as a headline’.
    Me: ‘What?’
    Richard: ‘Diesel do nicely!’

    WINCE

    OR:

    We had a pic of a Lexus in a kind of canary colour:

    Richard: ‘Go on Dave, please use this as a headline’
    Me: ‘What?’
    Richard: ‘The yellow clothes of Lexus’

    WINCE!!!

    And as for those ‘It’s a mad, mad, mad motoring world’ bits of copy……hmmmmmmmmm………..lol

    Wanted to know anything about cars? Richard was your man. No other point of reference mattered (or was as good).
    A top bloke. One of those old-school gentleman journos.
    I only ever saw him ‘really down’ twice. The first time was when he wasn’t too well and was wearing a mini heart monitor thingy his doc had fitted him up with; the second time was when he came to me and said: ‘Dave, I’ve just got the effing sack’. He was unfortunately made redundant in a cull of ‘standalone motoring writers’.
    But afterwards he often wrote freelance bits for the various group newspapers and was always well liked and respected and gave as good as he got when we took the proverbial pee out of his waistcoats!

    RIP Gibbo….enjoy your sojourn in that ‘great Nissan plant in the sky’……………..loads of folk will miss you.

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  • December 14, 2011 at 4:56 pm
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    One of the nicest I’ve met. Sadly missed. Condolences to his family

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  • December 15, 2011 at 11:32 am
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    Cannot think of words worthy enough to describe this wonderful man that I met in 1992 as a neighbour in business. Great sense of humour and charisma appreciated by his friends. RIP Richard and by the way you never acted or looked your age! Tony

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  • December 19, 2011 at 5:32 pm
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    I cried today at the funeral of a top, top guy and a close friend.
    Richard was funny, caring and the best possible company.
    His death was such a shock. I don’t think any of his friends realised just how ill he was. God rest, Richard.

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