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Editorial boss quits regional publisher after 44 years in industry

Neil Hodgkinson 2023An editorial director who has run four daily newspapers during his 44-year career has left a regional publisher.

Neil Hodgkinson became one of the industry’s great survivors in the course of a career which saw him edit the Lancashire Evening Post, Yorkshire Evening Post, Carlisle News & Star and Hull Daily Mail.

He has now said farewell to Reach plc, where he has most recently served as audience and content director for digital sport after holding a number of other senior roles.

As a result of his departure, Reach’s head of national sort Jake Murtagh and deputy managing editor for sport Mat Kendrick will report to chief digital publisher David Higgerson while new reporting lines are assessed.

Neil, pictured, said: “Hopefully I have made a positive impact on people’s careers both within Reach and elsewhere during an amazing time for the industry that saw hot metal and linotype printing end, full page makeup come in and digital journalism move alongside and then ahead of print.

“For a council house kid from Fleetwood it has been a great ride and one that many people – including my parents – never thought I’d make. It was the ‘posh job’ and even my dad made me get a physics O-level in case it didn’t work out and I could join him as an electrician.

“My mum was a cleaner and never fully understood what I did. Even on her deathbed, she asked me to tell the nurse ‘what’s that funny job you do, again?’ However, I must be the only editor who can fit wall lights.

“I have had the privilege to cover some of the biggest stories in recent world history from the Falklands War, the fall of Ceausescu, the death of Diana and 9/11.

“I have also been involved in many major local stories, none more than the 7/7 bombers who travelled from Leeds to strike terror into London and Derrick Bird, the Cumbrian taxi driver who killed 12 people in a shooting spree. They were tragedies that affected communities greatly and carried a burden of responsibility to ensure we didn’t let them down.

“On a more positive note we raised millions for charities, raised money for schools and helped improve lives on inner-city estates. I have met the Queen (and our King), interviewed Margaret Thatcher 1-1 sat on bar stools in the Marine Hall in Fleetwood in 1983, spoken to politicians either side of the divide in Israel, visited South Africa and met people risking their lives to end apartheid, attended the Beijing Olympics and taken part in Exercise Lionheart, which was the biggest movement of troops across Europe since WW2.

“Now it is time for me to again see what is out there for the next adventure.

“It has been an absolute pleasure working with Reach and there are some brilliant people doing some brilliant things. I wish everyone I have worked with the very best for the future.”

Listed among the Top 10 editors of the 20th century in a 2020 poll of HTFP readers, Neil took on his first editorship at the Preston-based LEP in 1996 before moving to its then Johnston Press stablemate the YEP, in Leeds, three years later.

He joined the former CN Group as editor of the Carlisle News & Star in 2006 before moving to Reach forerunnerLocal World as editor of the Hull Daily Mail in 2011, a role he held for the next nine years.

A company restructure in 2020 saw Neil become marketplace publisher for the North East and Yorkshire, taking responsibility for Reach’s print brands across the two regions and the “market positioning” of products in local areas.

He later added Reach’s Scottish regionals to his portfolio and was also editor-in-chief of Reach’s Yorkshire Live website, launched early in 2020.

He had held his current role since last year and was responsible for establishing a “strong focus” on sport with the company’s recent launches in the USA.

Neil, who has won national and regional awards including multiple UK Newspaper of the Year titles and the 2005 Race in the Media Award, has also represented Reach as a Mentor on the Mission Gender Equity cross-company programme.

Reach chief operating officer Alan Edmunds said: “Neil is a superb editor and leader. Working with him for the past seven years has been fabulous.”

David Higgerson added: “I have known Neil throughout my career as a journalist, both as a colleague and a competitor, and he has always set the standard for what journalism, especially local journalism, should aspire to.

“Countless careers have been built upon Neil’s advice, support and guidance including many people working within Reach today.

“His leadership of digital sport has been brilliant to see, and I’m sure all of us wish him well after such a long and distinguished career.”