Editor, lecturer and media law expert Tom Welsh has died: 'A tireless campaigner for press freedom'

Former regional press editor, media law expert and first director of journalism at City University Tom Welsh has died at the age of 85.

Press Association legal editor Mike Dodd, who succeeded Welsh as editor of Media Lawyer, and as a co-author of McNae's Essential Law for Journalists, said: "Tom was an inspiration to me, and to many others, as a media law specialist, as a journalist, and as a tireless campaigner for freedom of the press, the public's right to know, and the right of journalists to report what happens in our courts.

"He always set the highest standards, and expected and encouraged others to match them."

Tom Welsh (pictured above, centre, at the launch of the 18th edition of MacNae's with Walter Greenwood and David Banks) studied law at Cambridge University, before joining the Westmorland Gazette in Kendal as a trainee reporter.

He then worked at the Yorkshire Evening Press and Oxford Mail before joining national daily the News Chronicle in 1959.

When that title closed down a year later he joined The Guardian as a sub-editor.

In 1963 he become a senior copy editor with Field Enterprises Educational Corporation and in 1966 he became a lecturer in journalism at Harlow Technical College.

Three years later, he became editor of the North London Press series, which later included the Hornsey Journal. It was during his time with the group that it launched the Camden Journal, which later became the Camden New Journal.

From 1973 to 1976 he worked as senior press officer with the Inner London Education Authority.

In 1976 he became the first director of Journalism Studies at City University, London.

As director, he established strong links within the industry, and placed particular stress on the importance of the vocational element in post-graduate courses.

Three years later he left his post at the university – with which he remained an honorary visiting fellow – to edit the North-Western Evening Mail at Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria – a post he held until 1986.

After leaving that job he spent ten years as a freelance lecturer in media law.

In 1996 he launched specialist title Media Lawyer, which he edited for ten years, until it was acquired by the Press Association in 2006.

Welsh's career as joint editor – with Walter Greenwood – of McNae's Essential Law for Journalists began with the seventh edition, which was published in 1979.

Welsh also spent five years as chairman of the law examinations board of the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).

Welsh leaves a widow, Mary, who writes walking guides and books, and two sons and two daughters, as well as four grandchildren.

Tributes:

Head of journalism at City University George Brock:

Tom Welsh was the organiser and inspiration at the start of the Journalism department at City University London and we salute his achievement.

"The department has grown steadily in reputation and size since its foundation in the early 1970s and that is thanks to the solid foundations which Tom built.

"He was a regular attender at our talks and lectures until very recently and we will miss him very much."

Media commentator and freelance journalist Jon Slattery:

I was on the first year of the City University journalism course in 1976 which was launched by Tom Welsh.

"Tom was an inspirational teacher and a great mentor to the students on the course throughout our careers.

"He kept in touch with us over the years and always came to our reunions. We have one planned in July which will go ahead in his honour.

"Tom was a real champion of press freedom and was delighted when young journalists got up in court and used Essential Law to challenge wrongly imposed court restrictions.

"One thing I learnt from Tom over the years is that press freedom has to be protected and fought for all the time against over zealous courts, secretive councils and new legislation."

Chief executive of the NCTJ Joanne Butcher:

Tom was a true gentleman and a pleasure to work with, and even after stepping down from editing McNae, he kept an active interest in the book's development as well as changes at the NCTJ.

"The forthcoming 60th anniversary celebrations of McNae will be tinged with sadness without Tom and Walter but the strength and status of the book owes much to their joint legacy."

Journalist and media law consultant David Banks:

Tom's death will be mourned by many, many journalists throughout the UK. I worked with him on the 18th and 19th editions of McNae and, like his co-author, Walter Greenwood, you could not fail to be impressed with his knowledge of newspaper law.

"He was forever collecting examples of legal problems and journalists fighting off unlawful orders or frivolous lawsuits, which he would use in McNae, or Media Lawyer, to keep people up to date."

"He, and Walter, made a huge contribution to a free press in this country, by helping everyone from regional trainee reporters to national newspaper editors stay the right side of the law."

Executive director of the Society of Editors Bob Satchwell:

Tom played a huge part in the lives of journalists working in all parts of the media because of his contribution to their training and in keeping them informed about the law throughout their careers.

"He was a dedicated campaigner for press freedom. That is why, along with the late Walter Greenwood, his co-author of Essential Law, he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Editors in 2007."

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