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Industry-wide tributes to former ‘Essential Law’ author

The former co-author of  McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists has died at the age of 85 prompting tributes from across the industry.

Together with Walter Greenwood, Tom Welsh co-wrote the journalists’ law bible for 28 years and was also a previous editor of the North West Evening Mail in Barrow.

The duo oversaw thirteen editions of the textbook between 1979 and 2007.

Tom, pictured left, was also a former chairman of the National Council for the Training of Journalists law board.

Paying tribute to his work for the NCTJ and journalism training, NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher said:  “Tom was a true gentleman and a pleasure to work with and even after stepping down from editing McNae, he kept an active interest in the book’s development as well as changes at the NCTJ.

“The forthcoming 60th anniversary celebrations of McNae will be tinged with sadness without Tom and Walter but the strength and status of the book owes much to their joint legacy.”

Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell said:  “Tom played a huge part in the lives of journalists working in all parts of the media because of his contribution to their training and in keeping them informed about the law throughout their careers.

“He was a dedicated campaigner for press freedom. That is why, along with the late Walter Greenwood, his co-author of Essential Law, he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Editors in 2007.”

Tom read law at Emmanuel College, Cambridge before joining the Westminster Press graduate trainee scheme.

After subbing roles at the Oxford Mail, News Chronicle and The Guardian, he became a lecturer in journalism at Harlow College for three years, and then edited the North London Press series where he launched the Camden Journal.

He taught media law at City University where he was the first director of the graduate school of journalism studies.

In 1979 he became editor of the Evening Mail in the same year he began his co-editorship of McNae’s.

Tom also founded the legal journal Media Lawyer before it was sold to the Press Association where it continues as an online service run by Tom’s former deputy, Mike Dodd.

Mike also succeeded Tom as a co-author of McNae’s, producing the 21st edition together with Mark Hanna in 2011.

Said Mike:  “Tom was an inspiration to me, and to many others, as a media law specialist, as a journalist, and as a tireless campaigner for freedom of the press, the public’s right to know, and the right of journalists to report what happens in our courts.

“He always set the highest standards, and expected and encouraged others to match them.”

Professor George Brock, head of journalism at City University, added: “Tom Welsh was the organiser and inspiration at the start of the Journalism department at City University London and we salute his achievement.

“The department has grown steadily in reputation and size since its foundation in the early 1970s and that is thanks to the solid foundations which Tom built. He was a regular attender at our talks and lectures until very recently and we will miss him very much.”


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  • April 28, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    So, so sorry to hear about Tom’s death. As Joanne says, he was a true gent, mild mannered but passionate, nay fiery, about the public’s right to know and making sure journalistic principles were upheld within the law.

    I’m just hoping there are people out there who can continue to carry the baton.

    I last saw him and Walter Greenwood at the launch of the 21st edition of Essential Law a year or so ago. The two of them were revered. Raise a glass to them both tonight. They have served journalism well.

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  • April 28, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    There will be many tributes, but I also remember a true gentleman who always had time for you. Generations of journalists and law trainers have a lot to thank Tom for over many years.

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  • April 29, 2014 at 10:38 am

    I agree with David Scott, he always found time for a chat, and was generous with his help and advice. A lovely gent, who is remembered fondly.

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  • April 29, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    Good old Walt and Tom…. They helped solve last minute queries/arguments in my newsrooms as we dipped into their pages. Thanks…..

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  • May 5, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Only just read about the death of Tom Welsh — I am deeply saddened.
    I knew him professionally for over a decade and was always impressed by his resolute approach to media law matters.
    His determination to defend the public right to know was unquenchable and he also strove to ensure that would-be journos shared that resolve.
    A true gentleman, his legacy is in the hundreds of working journalists whose legal awareness can be relied upon. Belated condolences to his family.
    RIP Tom.

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