Colin Channon, left, is stepping down as editor-in-chief of the Echo, which serves South Essex, and sister daily the Colchester Gazette, having taken over from long-serving predecessor Martin McNeill in January.
A memo sent to Newsquest Essex staff last week by managing director Michael Harper put Colin’s departure down to “personal reasons” but it has since emerged that he has a new job.
He is moving back to Hampshire near to where he was previously based as editor of the Chichester Observer to take up a role of head of editorial at Car Dealer magazine, based in Gosport.
The announcement came shortly after Newsquest Essex, which owns both titles, told its photographic staff at a meeting on Monday that it is planning to merge their operations, leading to the number of photographers being cut from 11 to eight across the county.
Colin’s role is also being split, with separate editors appointed for the Gazette and the Echo, which mainly circulates in Basildon and Southend.
Chris Hatton, deputy editor on the Echo, has been appointed editor-in-chief for South Essex and editor of the Echo.
James Wills, currently editor of the Essex County Standard and head of content for the Daily Gazette, will become editor-in-chief for North Essex and editor of the Daily Gazette.
In the memo, Michael states: “I know this has been a very difficult decision for Colin, but one he has had to make in the interests of his family.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Colin for the contribution he has made to the business in his time with us and to wish him every success with his plans for the future.
“As a result of this, in order to give greater focus to the titles in our portfolio, it has been decided that the role of editor-in-chief will be divided between North and South.
“Further to these appointments, and in line with our plans to simplify the editorial production process, Neil Reeve, currently production editor, will become the deputy editor for the Echo.
“Other changes resulting from this re-organisation will be announced in due course.
“I am sure you will join me in wishing all of those involved every success in their new roles.”
The management changes will be implemented from 10 November, although it is not yet known when the photographic changes will take place.
Colin started his career started at The News, Portsmouth, before he moved to The Evening Herald, Plymouth, as deputy sports editor, followed by a return to Portsmouth as sports editor.
He replaced Martin at Newsquest Essex who retired after more than 40 years in regional journalism, 23 of which were spent as a daily editor in Essex.
Both Colin and his predecessor also held overall responsibility for weekly titles including the Essex County Standard, Clacton and Frinton Gazette and the Harwich and Manningtree Standard.
Colin’s new role will also involve overseeing Car Dealer owner Blackball Media’s online content on its various automotive industry websites.
Speaking about the move, Colin said: “I’ve worked with some of the best journalists in the business during my career – I must have done because almost all the publications I’ve been at have won awards, and there’s no way I’m the reason why.
“The opportunity to return to Gosport, where my family is based, and to work with the brilliant team at Blackball Media, was very difficult to ignore. I’ve made some great friends in Essex and although my time there was short, I hope I managed to achieve a lot.”