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Reporter to bow out after 43 years at hometown paper

A one-paper reporter due to retire this week has received parliamentary praise after covering her hometown for more than four decades.

Northamptonshire Telegraph reporter Helen O’Neill has spent the past 43 years reporting on goings on in Corby, where she was born and raised.

Such has been her impact on the town, its MP has even brought up her retirement in the House of Commons.

During her tenure at the Kettering-based paper, Helen has also served as news editor, sub editor and night editor.

Helen, pictured on the left with Corby MP Andy Sawford, Telegraph digital editor Neil Burkett and editor Neil Pickford

Helen, pictured on the left with Corby MP Andy Sawford, Telegraph digital editor Neil Burkett and editor Neil Pickford

Andy Sawford raised the matter during a culture, media and sport debate in Westminster on Thursday.

Addressing Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, he said: “After a remarkable 43-year career as a reporter at the Corby Telegraph, Helen O’Neill retires next week.

“Will the Minister join me in sending congratulations to her and in saying that she shows the very best that local journalism and newspapers can be, and how much they can contribute to our communities?”

Mr Vaizey responded: “I think that Helen O’Neill’s 43-year career in journalism is a testament to the fantastic contribution that local newspapers make to our democracy.”

Adding his own tribute, Telegraph editor Neil Pickford said: “We completely support and agree with everything Mr Sawford said in parliament but I know Helen was very shocked, overwhelmed and astonished.

“She doesn’t feel she’s done anything over and above what the average local newspaper journalist has done.

“However, as her editor over the last three and a half years, I’d like to say she’s been an absolute stalwart and thoroughly deserves every accolade that has come her way.

“That kind of experience is incredibly difficult to replace and whoever does so will have some big shoes to fill.”

Helen will work her last day at the Telegraph on Thursday.

14 comments

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  • October 21, 2014 at 8:23 am
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    Goodbye to gold dust. Local living reporter who knows the patch she reports on inside out. Getting rarer than a sub editor now on so called local papers.good luck.

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  • October 21, 2014 at 9:01 am
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    I can imagine your average bean-counter/jumped-ad ad rep in charge of a newspaper fretting about how “much” it costs to employ someone like Helen O’Neill. Now she’s gone they can rejoice and replace her with a trainee on £15,000 a year. Or better still, they won’t replace her at all!

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  • October 21, 2014 at 9:03 am
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    Gold dust indeed and respect and good wishes to Helen and all the other “nuggets” out there. Two other long servers who spring to mind are Mike Last, who did 40 years plus at the Lynn News, and Brian Stephens down in Worthing, who was still running out of the office at nearly 70 to be first to a news story. Not sure that being mentioned in the House of Commons is such a grand accolade though. Prefer the praise of the Editor!

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  • October 21, 2014 at 9:05 am
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    Well done, Helen. I’m just one of the Northants Evening Telegraph editors you worked for. And I’ve no doubt the others would join me in saying what a great reporter and news editor you have been. It’s right that you have always been at the heart of Corby breaking a range of excellent stories over the years. Enjoy your retirement. You deserve it.

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  • October 21, 2014 at 9:28 am
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    Spot on golam. This happened on my local, staffed by kids now and despite their hard work and enthusiasm the shallow reporting shows.
    It gets worse as more seniors quit or retire.

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  • October 21, 2014 at 11:33 am
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    Absolutely right, Nugget! Congratulations Helen. All good wishes for a happy retirement.

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  • October 21, 2014 at 11:48 am
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    It really doesnt matter any more, Hackwatcher. (attrib Buddy Holly) Name of 21st century game is to fill paper cheaply, with quality low priority while making lots of dosh from website (except no-one is).
    People like this are missed, believe me.

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  • October 21, 2014 at 1:06 pm
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    A star! Superb local reporter and a lovely person too. A sad loss for the readers of Corby (who, most of which Hells Bells knows).

    But if she was pushed (like me) rather than jumped, then JP and Northants Newspapers should be totally ashamed of themselves for getting rid a brilliant asset.

    Good luck, girl!

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  • October 21, 2014 at 1:43 pm
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    Great ambassador for her paper and a thoroughly nice (yes nice) woman to boot. It’s people like you Helen that deserve long and happy retirements after devoting your life to journalism.

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  • October 21, 2014 at 2:21 pm
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    Helen ,the reporter whose sincerity gave wings to strength, an ethical writer who respected her readers and their communities and was never afraid to stand up and be counted. Have fun Helen, sayi goodbye tension hello pension and enjoy your well deserved time to yourself

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  • October 21, 2014 at 4:27 pm
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    David Rowell. Nice kind words. Do you know there are young reporters on some of the JP papers who have never even had the time to drive out on their patch to see what they are writing about, because they are so busy doing production jobs and re-writing press releases? Helen can at least have satisfaction of being a real journo who knew her patch and her trade. I am not sure today’s youngsters will get the chance, talented though some are .

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  • October 21, 2014 at 6:54 pm
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    From the comments on the retirement of journo: after a number of years on a Provincial paper, it is good to view the comments made and also the state of the press where Juniors are concerned.

    Unfortunately , in Sri Lanka there are only one or two Provincial newspapers which has been running for years. Others commence and close down due to escalating production costs.

    However for Ms.Helen to be with a paper in the provinces for 43 years is great. She should be an example to most of those young men who wished Journalism as a career, not for money alone.

    As a Editor of a ‘ small ‘ newspaper running for 21 years with difficulty, I know the trials and tribulations that Ms.Helen would have had

    So good luck and a happy retirement, though I have never met her..

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  • October 22, 2014 at 12:11 am
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    Have a really happy retirement, Helen.
    It was a great pleasure to have you working for me at the Northants Post Group back in the 80s (God – was it that long ago??).
    You did a wonderful job and you’ll be a hard act to follow.

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  • October 22, 2014 at 9:17 am
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    Free radical might be right. Haven’t seen a reporter in our town of about 40,000 for nearly a year not even for major events or big council meetings. But its forever asking us to send reports and pictures in. This Helen lady sounds like a good reporter.

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