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Tributes to regional editor who went on to lead PA

A former editor of the Cambridge News who went on to become deputy editor of The Times and then editor of the Press Association has died aged 74.

Colin Webb began his career on the Portsmouth News in the late 1950s before joining PA and then The Times as a reporter.

He became news editor of The Times before leaving to edit the Evening News for eight years from 1976 to 1984, when he rejoined The Times as deputy editor.

Two years later he was appointed editor of PA, holding the position until 1995.

Colin has been credited with bringing the agency up to date with new technology and creating the PA Select service which took on some of the copy-tasting and sub-editing role of regional newspapers.

His former colleague, legendary former PA political editor Chris Moncrieff, has penned the following obituary which we are reproducing in full.

Colin Webb, who has died aged 74, was a highly effective editor of the Press Association from 1986 to 1995 and successfully steered the agency through a crucial period in its history.

Webb was a hugely experienced hard news man, both in Fleet Street and regional journalism before he took over the editor’s chair at the PA. He played a major role in bringing about technology changes at the PA, led the agency through a period of recession, during which job losses inevitably occurred, and he battled through the first stirrings of what turned out to be abortive attempts by UK News to put the Press Association out of business altogether.

Webb also coined what he regarded as the basic ABC of the Press Association: Authority, Balance, Clarity.

Colin Thomas Webb was born on March 26, 1939, and trained on the Evening News, Portsmouth, before spending some 18 months as a PA reporter in the early 1960s.

He then joined The Times as part of their news team of “firefighters”, dashing off at a moment’s notice to wherever in the world a big story was breaking.

Webb became news editor of The Times before editing the Cambridge Evening News for eight years. He was then recalled “out of the blue” by The Times as the paper’s deputy editor, becoming one of the most influential figures on the paper until the PA offer came along.

One of his first tasks was to set about bringing the PA up to date in high technology.

Webb also introduced a highly popular news service in 1980, called PA Select. For the first time in its history, the PA was taking on the copy-tasting and sub-editing role of regional newspapers by providing a brief and lively summary of the main stories of the day.

He also introduced political opinion polls for the first time in PA’s history. Whereas most polls carried out by newspapers involved a sample of around 1,000 people, the PA polls ran to 10,000 and could be broken down into 12 regional areas. Another poll initiated by Webb showed that alcohol had become Britain’s third greatest killer after heart disease and cancer.

And one of the prime beneficiaries of his restructuring of the editorial system was the features department which he felt had taken a back seat for far too long.

Webb, a kindly and innovative man left an indelible mark on the Press Association, not least because of his initiative in dispersing of important departments, such as sport, to the north of England.

He will be remembered for his determination to ensure that the Press Association kept abreast of and ahead of the rest of Fleet Street and provided its customers with the finest and fastest news service possible.

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  • May 22, 2013 at 10:30 am

    He was always pleasant and incredibly helpful!

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