A legendary former editor who helped turn around the fortunes of a regional daily has died at the age of 95.
Eric Price, left, was editor of the Western Daily Press from 1960 to 1980 and was credited with increasing sales from 12,000 to nearly 80,000 a day, becoming editor of sister title the Bristol Evening Post before his retirement.
He worked on six national newspapers including the Daily Express before returning to his native West Country and he was said to have applied Fleet Street techniques to regional journalism.
Tributes have been paid after Eric died in Bristol’s Frenchay Hospital on 14 October following a short illness.
Ian Beales, his former deputy at the WDP who later became its editor, said: “He hit it like a tornado, transforming a grey and sleepy provincial daily into a gutsy mid-market broadsheet, with a powerful blend of national and regional news.
“It looked so much like the Express that one seasoned Express staffer visiting Bristol bought it by mistake and was halfway down the street before he noticed. It worked. The circulation went from 12,000 to 55,000 in five years and went on to peak at nearly 80,000.
“The paper was packed with stories, and hard-hitting campaigns: he branded the WDP as ‘the paper that fights for the West.’ It was the champion of regional causes, such as Concorde and the Port of Bristol, but the ferocious opponent of bureaucracy in all its forms – civil servants, town planners, municipal officialdom – pretentious Tory pomp, and interfering Socialism.
“Eric was a ball of energy with a passion for journalism that often exploded into anger, moderated – thank God! – by his great sense of fun. He believed fervently that newspapers were invented for journalists to enjoy themselves.
“He was irascible, raging and outrageous. But all this was redeemed by his touchingly schoolboyish sense of humour – he would put drawing pins on sub-editors’ seats, and light little fires under them. It was a stark contrast to hurling the office teapot across the room, which also happened from time to time. No one slept while Eric was on.
“His essential journalistic talent was that he was the great sub-editor: hacking and re-writing copy to give it zip, and insisting on punchy and provocative headlines. Subs, he said, were ‘the uncrowned kings of journalism.’ This made the Western Daily Press the accredited boot camp for sub-editors with ambition.
“Eric could be inspiring and exasperating in equal measure. But that was his charm. He was a great mentor, boss and friend. He was the ultimate Editor’s Editor.”
Bob Satchwell, the executive director of the Society of Editors added: “For editors advanced in their careers, Eric will be remembered with great respect and fondness for his skills as an editor, great humour and contempt for red tape. He had a great competitive spirt and was always wonderful company.”
In 1980, Eric was appointed editor of the Bristol Evening Post and group editorial director of Bristol United Press Ltd until he retired in 1983.
His wife of 72 years Barbara died earlier this year and Eric leaves two sons, three daughters, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.