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Journalist who ‘rescued’ weekly retires after 70 years

A journalist credited with rescuing the weekly newspaper he served for 70 years has retired.

Ray Miller has been described by colleagues as the “spirit” of the Runcorn and Widnes Weekly News, which he formerly edited.

Ray was just 14 when he started out at the Weekly News as a copy boy in 1945, cycling to deliver stories to the sub-editors, after being recommended for the job by a teacher.

He was later promoted to junior reporter, responsible for collecting sports results, before going on to cover Runcorn Football Club’s reserves and then becoming a general reporter.

As editor in 1980, when the newspaper was owned by Swale Press, he saved it from closure during a printers’ strike when he and his colleagues pooled their redundancy payouts to pay for issues to be printed in Nottingham after weeks out of circulation.

Following the rescue, the newspaper thrived and caught the eye of Thomson Regional Newspapers, which bought it in March 1982 and brought it under its Chester operation.

Ray later stepped aside from the role of editor, becoming deputy to Eric Langton who went on to become editor-in-chief of the Chester Chronicle.

He finally stepped back from full-time work in 1995, but continued as a columnist for another 20 years with his nostalgia page.

Ray (front centre) photographed by the Weekly News at his retirement party

Ray (front centre) photographed by the Weekly News at his retirement party

Discussing his bond with journalism in a piece for the Weekly News, Ray said: “I think it’s the level of interest, you are never bored.

“It’s not all glamour as you know and it’s hard work and can be long hours. But there’s never the same routine.

“There was a time when I was a copy boy, and was across the bridge twice a day on my bike. I had all the mundane jobs in those days, nowadays you’re expected to do a front page in three weeks of starting.”

He added: “The biggest change obviously is communication, the internet … ‘the information highway’. The changes are absolutely amazing.”

Paying tribute to Ray in the piece, reporter Oliver Clay credited him with helping dozens of journalists on the road to career success.

“In addition to a legacy of rescuing the paper, Ray’s time at the Weekly News also saw him nurture generations of young reporters and photographers, whose accomplishments under his guidance often set them on the road for success on regional and national titles and who were among those to pay tribute to his achievements, along with ex-editors whose careers had taken them to Fleet Street,” he wrote.

5 comments

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  • April 30, 2015 at 8:57 am
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    I had the pleasure to work with Ray for five years and it was an absolute privilege to do so, he was a mentor and a friend – although on one occasion I incurred his disapproval by attempting to go to court without a tie, earning the stern rebuke ‘I don’t know, you young lads today!’.

    What he doesn’t know about the patch isn’t worth knowing, he will leave a massive gulf there – he was a journalist’s journalist. Hopefully he’ll still be providing his Grand National tips though – they were peerless!

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  • April 30, 2015 at 11:31 am
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    What a heartwarming story. Sadly, no journalist starting out today is likely to rack up this kind of service, nor even the paltry 31 years I gave to my newspaper. Look elsewhere on this website to discover exactly what value publishers now place on experienced, long-serving staff.

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  • April 30, 2015 at 3:55 pm
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    History being re-written here – he and his well-heeled mates tried to break the strike by farming out their jobs to the scab Nottingham Evening Post. The loyal printers lost their jobs along with dozens of journalists at the Weekly News Group.

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  • April 30, 2015 at 4:53 pm
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    I think this gentleman deserves to be honoured by the Queen.

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  • April 30, 2015 at 6:41 pm
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    Ray Miller, the only journo I came across who could produce a vivace pizzicato from an old Remington typewriter (remember them?). The man was a genius and a dedicated local scribe through and through.

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