Rupert Murdoch and Lord Rothermere have led the tributes to Fleet Street’s elder statesman, Sir Edward Pickering.
The 91-year-old executive vicechairman of Times Newspapers was previously editor of the Daily Express and chairman of the Daily Mirror when both titles were at their peak.
He was a close friend and adviser of News International boss Murdoch, who briefly worked under Pickering as a sub-editor on the Daily Express in the Fifties. Murdoch said this week: “Ted Pickering will be remembered as a colossal figure in British newspapers.
“He far outlasted the other great journalists of his generation through his sheer brilliance as a craftsman, undimmed enthusiasm for the life of Fleet Street, and unmatchable judgement of newspapers and the people producing them. “The industry has lost an incomparable institution; our company has lost a guide whose wisdom was drawn upon until the last. I have lost a great mentor and a true friend, a man in whom I placed my trust for 50 years.”
Both The Sun and the News of the World featured page-two tributes to Pickering while The Times devoted a page to his obituary. Pickering chose journalism over university and served his apprenticeship on the Northern Echo before moving to the Daily Mirror and then Daily Mail, where be became chief sub-editor at the age of 27 in 1939. After the war he returned to the Daily Mail where be became managing editor, then in 1951 he joined the Daily Express as deputy editor. In 1957 he became editor and took the paper from 4,100,000 to 4,313,000 – its highest circulation. However, he fell foul of temperamental proprietor Lord Beaverbrook who, then 84, moved him from the Daily Express to the Farming Express on Christmas Eve 1961.
In 1964, Pickering was taken on as editorial director of the Daily Mirror under chairman Hugh Cudlipp. He then became chairman of the newspaper division, with the Mirror then at its peak, and later became chairman of Mirror Group – a post from which he retired in 1977. He became an independent director of The Times following Murdoch’s takeover in 1981 and after becoming executive vice-chairman continued to work a five-day week into his 90s.
Les Hinton, executive chairman of News International, said: “No one in the newspaper business had seen more than Ted Pickering and understood so well the virtues and blemishes of Fleet Street.
“Through towering skill as a newspaperman and simple honesty he set a record for durability at the very top of a notoriously tricky trade. What made him so rare was the generosity with which he shared all he knew. It is impossible to count the occasions when his counsel saved the day during periods of great difficulty. He was a great friend and a brilliant teacher.”
Lord Rothermere, chairman of the Daily Mail and General Trust, said: “Sir Edward’s contributions to newspapers over more than 70 years went far beyond the individual titles he worked for.
“His lifetime devotion to journalism and wise counsel was respected by all in this country and overseas, especially in the Commonwealth. His continuing charm, energy and influence in journalism will be greatly missed.”
The funeral will be held at 11.30am on 20 August at St Brides. A memorial service will follow, but the date is yet to be announced.
By Dominic Ponsford