is an element of the mischiefmaker about most good journalists. Joe
Wood, who has died at the age of 58, positively revelled in the role.
desire to be the first with a story was all consuming. He also had a
pathological dislike of secrets. The combination made him a prolific
As a young reporter in Essex, he fell foul of the
Wireless and Telegraphy Act after his overzealous use of a police radio
scanner meant him arriving on a crime scene before the boys in blue.
moved to London to work as a reporter on the Sunday People, but here,
too, his exuberance got the better of newsdesk executives, who had
spent a career exposing the peccadilloes of the rich and famous, was
indulging in his own less than blameless nocturnal behaviour, Joe
followed him to a joint in London’s West End, jumping out to catch his
boss in flagrante delicto.
No surprise, then, that his career at
the People came to an abrupt end and he found himself subbing in
Newcastle, New South Wales. He left journalism and travelled the world
working for an Arab sheikh, but in the early 1990s returned,
freelancing with great success from his home in Chiswick, London.
Joe had a near obsession with the telephone.
had several and was always on one of them. Another interest was cars,
and in the 1980s he invested in a Rolls Royce with one of the first car
Driving near his home on the A4, he rang a friend to
explain proudly that he was speaking from his car. But the lead from
the handset got wrapped around the steering column and Joe totalled the
Roller on the Talgarth roundabout.
His BBC contacts led the
corporation to launch a leak investigation, not realising that the
executive given the task of finding the source of the stories was one
of Joe’s best contacts.
I’ll never forget the first time I met
Joe. In one corner of his office was an electric organ. Joe sat down
silently and played The Red Flag from beginning to end. This, I
thought, is my kinda guy.
The Fleet Street gossip and scandal he
loved was hilarious. He would take me to lunch and we would literally
cry laughing. I’ll miss those lunches.
Joe was diagnosed with
cancer in November and he suffered. But he was deeply moved and
comforted by those very many colleagues who enquired after and
supported him, particularly Sunday Mirror editor Tina Weaver.
I know it’s a much over-used term, but Joe really was one of the great Fleet Street characters.
Donations to Marie Curie.