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Founding editor of 'trailblazing' daily dies aged 91

The founding editor of a “trailblazing” evening newspaper has died just short of his 92nd birthday.

Ivor Lewis headed up the Evening Echo, based at Hemel Hempstead, which won more design and writing awards than any other paper in Britain during his nine-year tenure from 1967 to 1976.

The newspaper was founded by Thomson Regional Newspapers as part of a bid to create a ring of titles around the outer London commuter belt.

Other titles included the Evening Post in Luton and Dunstable, the Basildon Echo, and the soon-to-be-closed Reading Evening Post.

The 1969 edition of the Hemel Hempstead Echo covering the Moon landings.

The 1969 edition of the Hemel Hempstead Echo covering the Moon landings.  Picture courtesy of Nic Outterside.

An Oxford graduate, Ivor was working for the Sunday Times – then also part of the Thomson group – when he was selected to spearhead the initiative.

Under his stewardship the Echo and its Luton and Dunstable sister title the Evening Post, edited by Richard Parrack, won several awards for its innovative page design and boasted a circulation of 90,000 at its peak.

It achieved two major national writing awards in two years, with John Marquis being voted Provincial Journalist of the Year in 1974 and Melanie Phillips Young Journalist of the Year in 1975.

Said John: “Both papers were printed web-offset and pioneered a new dynamic approach to regional journalism specialising in bright picture presentation and hard-hitting campaigns.

“Ivor brought together a formidable array of talent, many of whom went on to become editors themselves.”

When the Echo and Post merged into the Evening Post-Echo in 1976, Ivor was appointed TRN’s chief London editor, leading a team serving the group’s 16 daily newspapers.

He retired to his native Wales in the 1980s.

The Evening Echo merged with the Evening Post to become the Post-Echo in 1976 but was hard-hit by the rise of free sheets and closed in 1983, with the loss of 470 jobs.

The Echo's inside spread on the Moon landings. Picture from Nic Outterside.

The Echo’s inside spread on the Moon landings. Picture from Nic Outterside.

 

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  • December 12, 2014 at 9:17 am
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    The Hemel Hempstead Evening Echo was the first newspaper I remember reading. I still have the Moon Landing souvenir edition from 1969 which boasted design skills years ahead of its time. I was amazed to find many years later that one of my fellow editors at NWN Media cut his teeth as a trainee reporter at the Echo. Tis a small world indeed. RIP Ivor.

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  • December 12, 2014 at 8:33 pm
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    There is no doubt the Evening Echo was THE paper of its day. Ivor Lewis has to be credited with assembling a team unmatched anywhere else in the industry. In some respects, the Echo was too good for its market – it did some amazing stuff, including a memorable series on the poisoner Graham Young, and a major investigation into child deaths at two major hospitals. After the merger of the Post and Echo, it was never quite the same, but a generation of journalists was defined by its association with the Hemel Hempstead operation, and Roy Thomson’s bold venture will live in their minds forever.

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  • December 12, 2014 at 8:52 pm
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    On its best days, the Echo made its London evening rivals, the News and Standard, look very poor products indeed. It was sharply designed, sharply written and ready to take on controversial issues in a way that was unusual in journalism at that time. Its line-up of editorial talent was breath-taking. It was probably the last hurrah for journalistic idealism. Today’s trivial national press, full of celebrity tripe, and declining regional press are poor shadows of TRN’s Hemel icon, which always outshone its sister paper, the Evening Post. Ivor Lewis was a reticent man, but he produced a remarkable paper. He deserves great praise for giving talented people their heads.

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