The role of newspaper editor has changed significantly over the 20-year period that HoldtheFrontPage has been reporting on the regional press industry.
Whereas at one time almost all daily and some weekly editors would have been responsible for a single title, nowadays some have more than 20 under their command.
Inevitably the role has become more strategic, with less hands-on involvement in the choice of inside page leads, for instance, than would once have been the case.
But it remains the case that a good editor – and there are still many of those in the regional press – can still put their stamp on the personality of their paper, and change things for the better in their communities they represent.
So as part of our series of pieces to mark our 2oth anniversary, we’ve selected a dozen daily editors from the past two decades who we think have done just that – and we’re asking you to choose who you think is the best.
With potentially hundreds of names to choose from, we’ve whittled it down to 12 by stipulating that the contenders have to have been an editor of a local or regional title for at least half of that period.
Although this rules out the likes of Barrie Williams, Geoff Elliott and Paul Horrocks – all distinguished editors from the early years of the ‘Noughties’ – we felt that our choice should reflect achievement across most of the 20-year period under review.
It also, unfortunately, results in a somewhat male-dominated list, as many of the relatively new wave of great female editors such as Catrin Pascoe, Samantha Harman and Nancy Fielder have not yet been in post for long enough.
That aside, we think our shortlist – half of them former editors, the other half still in post – represents a reasonably good stab at identifying the people who have made the biggest impact editorially on our industry over the past 20 years.
Here, then, in alphabetical order, are our 12 contenders. Scroll to the bottom of the page to cast your vote.
Northern Echo 1999-2016
Took over as editor of the Northern Echo in 1999 and went on to become the longest-serving editor in the title’s 140-year history, earning the MBE for services to journalism the North-East community life in 2013.
His most notable campaign came early on in his editorship when one of his staff photographers, Ian Weir, died of a heart attack aged 38 while on a waiting list for a heart bypass. The story made a deep impression on the then health secretary, former Darlington MP Alan Milburn, and resulted in lasting improvements in coronary care.
Sheffield Star 1992-2004, Yorkshire Post 2004-2013
One of two YP editors on our shortlist, Peter also edited the Blackpool Gazette and Sheffield Star in the course of a 40-year career in regional newspapers. He also added the Yorkshire Evening Post to his portfolio in 2012 when it was decided to merge the two titles under a single editor.
During his editorship Peter initiated the campaign for Yorkshire to get a fairer funding deal from Whitehall, laying the groundwork for similar initiatives by his successors, Jeremy Clifford and James Mitchinson.
Irish News 1999 to date
One of only three names on our list who have been daily editors throughout our 20-year existence and the only one to have edited the same title – the Irish News – for the whole of that period.
A serial award-winner, Noel led his title to the coveted Newspaper of the Year crown at the Regional Press Awards for two years in a row in 2011 and 2012, and has been credited with winning a wider, cross-community readership for the traditionally Catholic title.
Exeter Express & Echo 1997-2005, Derby Telegraph 2005-2012 and 2016-18.
Steve enjoyed two stints as Derby Telegraph editor either side of a spell as its MD. Under his leadership the paper consistently punched above its weight, with the campaign to save the Bombardier factory in 2012 and the Horrors of Aston Hall expose in 2016 winning recognition from Regional Press Awards judges.
He stepped down as editor in 2018 and now runs his own media consultancy as well as teaching journalism at the University of Derby.
Yorkshire Evening Post 1999-2006, Carlisle News & Star 2006-2011, Hull Daily Mail 2011 to date.
One of the industry’s great survivors, Neil is another contender on our list who has been an editor for the whole of the lifetime of our site – working for three different publishers in the process.
Under Neil’s editorship the Mail has been consistently in the hunt for awards and was O2 Newspaper of the Year in Yorkshire and Humber in both 2012 and 2013. In recent years his role has widened to include oversight of Reach plc’s North-East titles.
Rob began his career as a reporter at the Warrington Guardian in 1987 and worked for the Derby Telegraph, Bradford Telegraph & Argus and Liverpool Echo before landing his first editor’s job at the Daily Post editor in Llandudno.
During his six-year stint at the MEN he oversaw the paper’s coverage of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombings which won worldwide acclaim. He now advises the Welsh Government on its infrastructure strategy.
Daily Post (Liverpool and North Wales editions) 1995-2002, North Wales Daily Post 2002-2005, Liverpool Echo 2005 to date
Ali began his career on titles in the North-East before joining the Liverpool Echo as assistant editor in the late 80s. After a ten year break editing the Daily Post , he finally returned as editor in 2005.
His editorship will be remembered for the long and ultimately successful campaign to secure new inquests for the 96 victims of the Hillsborough tragedy, which finally resulted in verdicts of unlawful killing in 2016.
Worksop Guardian 2010-11, Grantham Journal 2011-12, Derbyshire Times 2012-13, Sheffield Star 2013-16, Yorkshire Post 2016 to date
After eight years as a reporter at the Worksop Guardian, James became editor on the death of George Robinson in 2010 and thereafter moved swiftly through the ranks of Johnston Press’s South Midlands and North Yorkshire titles.
Appointed editor of the YP in 2016, he has built on its reputation as a heavyweight, campaigning title, taking a leading role in the ‘Power Up the North’ campaign and earning widespread plaudits for its coverage of the 2019 election battle.
Derby Telegraph 2001-05, Bristol Post 2005 to date
After a four-year stint at the Derby Telegraph, Bristolian Mike took charge of his hometown paper in 2005 and despite various restructures that saw him take on wider duties across Reach plc’s South West titles, has remained in post ever since.
Always known for his design flair, he has produced some of the most memorable front pages of recent times as well as seeking to address historic issues between the newspaper and the city’s black community.
Ipswich Star 1996-2012, Eastern Daily Press 2012-2016
Nigel was in charge of the Ipswich Star at the time of perhaps the biggest story in the town’s history – the murders of five street workers by serial killer Steve Wright in 2006.
He launched the Somebody’s Daughter memorial fund after the killings, helping to fund a new refuge in the county, before moving on to the EDP where he ran a successful campaign against cuts to the fire service.
Press & Journal 1993-2011
Once tipped as a future editor of Wolverhampton’s Express & Star, of which he was deputy editor, Derek instead headed north to take charge of Aberdeen daily the Press & Journal.
Under Derek’s leadership the P&J became the third highest-selling regional daily in the UK and also raised more than £10m for good causes on its patch.
Hartlepool Mail 2006 to date, additionally Shields Gazette 2013 to date, and Sunderland Echo 2014 to date.
Joy originally joined the Shields Gazette in 1988 and rose to be deputy editor before landing the Hartlepool Mail editorship in 2006.
As her role expanded, she realised her dream of editing her hometown paper the Gazette in 2013 followed by the Sunderland Echo the following year. She also sits on the board of the Society of Editors.
Now cast your vote! You can vote for up to three contenders.
Who is the best regional daily editor of the past 20 years?
- Noel Doran (24%, 860 Votes)
- Mike Norton (21%, 730 Votes)
- Nigel Pickover (20%, 718 Votes)
- Peter Barron (16%, 547 Votes)
- Steve Hall (6%, 194 Votes)
- Ali Machray (5%, 179 Votes)
- Joy Yates (5%, 167 Votes)
- Neil Hodgkinson (5%, 164 Votes)
- Rob Irvine (5%, 162 Votes)
- Peter Charlton (5%, 161 Votes)
- James Mitchinson (4%, 129 Votes)
- Derek Tucker (3%, 97 Votes)
Total Voters: 3,511