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Heart attack claims regional daily news chief aged 50

Tributes have been paid to a “hugely popular” award-winning regional daily journalist who has died suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 50.

Hartlepool Mail head of news Paul Watson, left, died on Sunday after suffering a massive heart attack from which he never recovered, leaving the paper’s newsroom “in total shock”.

Three people’s lives have since been saved in transplant operations from organs donated by Paul after an organ donor event he attended just days before his death inspired him to discuss the move with long-term partner Pauline Scott.

Paul joined the Mail as its news editor in 2007 then became head of news in 2010, having previously spent a decade working for the Press Association and before that for the Sunderland Echo

Mail editor Joy Yates said: “The Hartlepool Mail newsroom has been in total shock at the extremely sad loss of Paul. The newsroom will never be the same again.

“Paul was hugely popular with his colleagues and with everyone he met through his role as Head of News. Paul didn’t just make contacts, he made friends.

“He was proactive within the Hartlepool community and was proud to work with me on our Pride of Hartlepool and Best of Health awards. He will be missed by all those who had the privilege to meet him.

“My sincerest, deepest thoughts are with Paul’s partner Pauline and his family. Paul, it was an honour to know you.”

Paul was crowned the North East Journalist of the Year at the prestigious Tom Cordner Awards in 2009 and was involved with many campaigns for the Mail which supported worthy causes.

Stuart Birkett, managing director of Johnston Press’s Northeast publishing unit which includes the Mail, described him as a “model employee” and  “the epitome of a true journalist.”

Former PA colleague Teilo Colley told the Mail: “In almost 10 years at the Press Association, Paul was the consummate professional, always fast, fair and accurate in his reporting and always willing to go the extra mile in pursuit of the story.

“News of his sudden death has shocked his former PA colleagues in the north and elsewhere. He will be missed.”

Tributes have also been paid by many of the people Paul dealt with regularly, including Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond, who said: “Paul was an outstanding journalist who always conducted himself with the highest integrity.

“He was a real news man who was very thorough and fair in the way he reported key issues affecting people in the town. He will be missed and our thoughts at this moment are with his family and friends.”

A personal tribute has also been paid by the Mail’s deputy editor Gavin Foster who knew Paul from time as a cub reporter at the Sunderland Echo and became close friends with him.

He wrote: “Paul was the reassuring nod, the uplifting chat, the calming hand. I was thrilled when Paul came to work alongside us at the Mail. Newsrooms can be stressful environments – but he was the one who always put things into perspective.

“As anyone who met Paul or had the briefest chats with Paul will testify, he was just a great bloke. So genuine, so thoughtful. He would help anyone.

“From the hardest criminals, to the distraught mum, from the street cleaner to the chief executive… he treated them all the same – with honesty and integrity. There was no edge to Paul. What you saw and heard was what you got.

“And it was this trait that earned him so much respect as a journalist and a person and why he was an inspiration to any cub reporter wanting to know how to get the job done.

“After covering an organ donor memorial event just over a week ago, Paul had discussed with his partner about donating his organs. And in a last selfless act he has done just that. Still helping others even after his death.”

Away from work, Paul was well-read and enjoyed spending time with Pauline and his family, while also supporting Celtic Football Club.

He leaves Pauline, his mum Elizabeth, sister Pat and nephew Jordan. Further tributes to Paul can be read on the Hartlepool Mail’s website by clicking here.

  • Paul’s funeral will take place at 12.05pm on 5 December at St Mary’s RC Church in Bridge Street, Sunderland, followed by a cremation at Sunderland Crematorium.