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Former weekly reporter who went on to lead NUJ dies at 86

Ken Morgan

A former general secretary of the National Union of Journalists and director of the Press Complaints Commission who began his career on a weekly newspaper has died at the age of 86.

Ken Morgan, left, started out in journalism at the Stockport Express in 1944 and went on to be the NUJ’s general secretary from 1970-1977.

He then became joint secretary of the UK Press Council, later serving as its director for 10 years, and oversaw the founding of the Press Complaints Commission, becoming its director for its first year in 1991.

Ken died on 5 August at Princess Royal University Hospital in Farnborough and tributes have been paid to him by the NUJ.

NUJ assistant general secretary Seamus Dooley said: “Ken Morgan served as general secretary with distinction. He steered the union through turbulent waters with style, forbearance and commitment.

“Those who worked with Ken Morgan always remarked upon his innate courtesy, personal charm and mild manner, qualities which sometimes masked a steely determination and shrewd tactical mind.

“He is remembered with affection and admiration by many colleagues and friends across the union and in the media industry.

“He was regarded a man of principle who never courted popularity or sought to curry favour.”

After leaving school, Ken joined the Stockport Express as a junior reporter before being called up for National Service in the army, where he spent time working for the British army newspaper unit in Palestine and Egypt.

After returning to the UK, he rejoined his old paper where he was promoted to sub-editor.

Ken went freelance soon after, working for Stewart and Hartley’s news agency in Manchester, before moving on to work for the Exchange Telegraph in 1954, where he was given the job of launching an editorial operation to cover the North.

He served the NUJ in different roles for more than a quarter of a century, including as secretary to Manchester’s freelance branch, the first full-time branch secretary in central London, a national organiser then the union’s general secretary.

After stepping down as general secretary, Ken was recognised with an OBE from the Queen and was made a member of honour at the NUJ’s annual conference.

Following his work with the Press Council and Press Complaints Commission, Ken carried out consulting work on press ethics in the UK and abroad where he lectured in universities and to government bodies.

He continued to represent the union as a trustee and chairman of the Journalists’ Copyright Fund until three years ago, when he retired due to ill health.

A tribute on the NUJ’s website by former president John Bailey said: “As NUJ general secretary, even those who vociferously opposed his advice or ideas often ended up being grateful to Ken for representing them when in trouble. This was a man who could sit with Fleet Street barons or directors general of the BBC to arbitrate an NUJ member back into a job.

“It is how we knew him best – finessing the fine detail of a national agreement on pay and conditions or calmly explaining to a delegate conference in uproar why the union leadership was not only blameless, but actually wise in its handling of the dispute they didn’t want settled.

“Yet his reach in the press world – and his reputation – was so much wider and unguessed at by most.

“There will be many personal stories of a warm, generous-spirited man, who when under heavy attack and however wounded could still see the other person’s standpoint and be able to weather the storm.”

Ken is survived by his wife Margaret, herself a former reporter who was the union’s Stockport branch secretary, daughters Sarah and Jenny and his grandchildren.

His funeral will take place at Beckenham Crematorium on 14 August at 12 noon.