Former Islington Gazette chief sub-editor and national newspaper sub Clive Steele died at the age of 57 on 3 March.
in Crewe, Cheshire, Steele started his journalistic career on the Stoke
on Trent Evening Sentinel and had a strong interest in writing and
reading poetry. After being talent-spotted at a poetry reading at The
Turk’s Head in Manchester he moved to London where he shared lodgings
with the reputed poet John Heath Stubbs.
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Drawing on his literary
talents he was known as an effortless writer of witty and engaging
headlines and one of the most respected layout subs in the business.
became chief sub and NUJ FoC at the Islington Gazette in 1982 and
progressed on to a freelance career with spells on The Guardian, the
Mirror and the Sun. During the 90s he developed a neurological illness
which disrupted his career.
A trade union militant and champion
of the underdog, he challenged the widespread misrepresentation of
ethnic minorities throughout the regional press. When on the Islington
Gazette he led the Islington 18 campaign launched against newspaper
coverage of a group of black schoolchildren harassed by police after
the Notting Hill carnival.
In reports no attempt was made by
journalists to describe the children’s appearance or dress, they were
just labelled “black”. Steele won the right to bring the parents of the
children into the Gazette to talk to the editor and journalists about
the way their children had been represented.
Merlin John, editor
of Times Education Supplement Online recalls: “He changed the way some
of the regional press reported on ethnic minorities as a whole. I doubt
it would have happened but for someone as inventive and principled as
Clive. He had the capacity of turning something into a learning
Steele led various disputes over pay and conditions
throughout the 70s and in 80s when the power of the union began to
diminish. Steele and his colleagues went through two lengthy strikes,
one of which was to save the Camden Journal from closure. Their
campaign failed but out of it was born the Camden New Journal which has
kept everything they fought for alive.
Jean Gray, editor of the
Nursing Standard, recalls: “Clive would meet the printers and persuade
them not to cross our picket lines. He was just very funny and knew how
talk to people and put his case across. He was uncompromising but had a
lot of empathy with people and I think they responded to that.”
Hannah, now chief sub on the Times Education Supplement, said: “The
unions enabled the small people to make a difference. So even lowly
subs and reporters on local papers could change the way things were.
Clive had the passion and the politics to take advantage of that.”