Rather than play Scrooge by reviewing an unsuspecting editor’s Yuletide offerings, I thought I’d reflect on my top regional heroes of the year. Well, it is the last week in December, isn’t it?
And so, in true Christmas spirit, let’s not have an outright winner but instead give equal billing to all my choices in a 12-day drum-roll. On the 1st day of Christmas, etc…
Joyce Pugh, who at 81 was trumpeted by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest newspaper girl after 40 years of delivering the Shropshire Star to customers in the Welsh border village of White Grit. More like true grit!
John McLellan, the axed editor of The Scotsman, who I’ve picked simply because of his bravado in personally collecting Scotland’s Newspaper of the Year trophy in smart kilt and sporran – just a week after the announcement that he’d been axed. That’s the way to show ’em, John!
Doug Melloy, who retired on his 65th birthday after 30 years service as editor – three years at the Derbyshire Times, and a record-breaking 27 years at the Rotherham Advertiser. Many regional editors – me included – don’t make ten years in the chair! And what I particularly liked when interviewing Doug was his genuine optimism about the future for print.
Bernard Jones, who retired as chief photographer of the Derbyshire Times after 48 – yes, that’s 48 – years at the title, having joined as a 15-year-old technician handling glass plates in the dark room.
Dessie Blackadder, editor of the weekly Ballymena Times, where circulation rose by a gob-smacking 6.7pc in the latest ABCs, making it 2012’s best-performing regional newspaper in the UK in terms of pure comparisons. All power to your courts coverage, Dessie. (Johnston Press’s plethora of dailies turned weeklies that claim sales rises will have to wait until next year for meaningful figures.)
A dual entry shared by Chris Bright and Richard Digard, editors of the Jersey Evening Post and Guernsey Press and Star respectively, whose titles were both the best-performing dailies in the latest ABC figures with sales declines of just 1pc.
Steve Hall, the former editor of the Derby Telegraph, who won Editor of the Year in the Regional Press Awards for the way he personally led his title’s ‘An Industry Betrayed’ campaign at the government’s decision to give a £1.3 billion rail contract to a German firm instead of Derby’s Bombardier. Steve’s paper also scooped Campaign of the Year for its solid coverage of the same issue.
Peter Charlton, for the breathtaking way (for watching editors) he was subjected to ‘consultation’ by Johnston Press when his Yorkshire Post editorship was dissolved, only to bounce back from beyond as editor-in-chief of the Post and the sister Yorkshire Evening Post. What a survivor!
Which brings us to an even greater survivor, Steve Brown, who evoked warm smiles from everyone who’s ever worked for him after taking up a string of new ‘interim’ managing director roles at Northcliffe – first for the south west and south Wales regions, and latterly the Bristol unit.
This follows Steve’s controversial departure from heading Trinity Mirror’s North-East and Midlands division, then his remarkably short stay as chief executive of the Express & Star’s publisher the Claverley Group, and then another whistle-stop tour as chief of Johnston Press’ northern division. What a fighter!
And finally, I’d like to pay my own respects to Jim O’Brien, who sadly died at 73 earlier this month, and whose obituary on Holdthefrontpage triggered an outpouring of heart-felt tributes.
What was special about Jim was that he chose to return to regional newspapers at the Birmingham Post after a career that saw him in various roles at home and abroad for the Daily Telegraph. But what was really special is that I never once heard Jim, a class operator, brag about this background.
And that, as my greatest ever regional hero but sadly late Tony Dumphy would say at the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, is a wrap.
Merry Christmas, Dyson at Large readers, and I hope we all share a collective New Year resolution in the regions to take a leaf out of the above dozen heroes’ books to strive for even greater things in 2013.