Norman Jenkinson - Former news editor, the Belfast Telegraph

Norman
Jenkinson, who was news editor of the Belfast Telegraph during the
worst years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, has died. He was 69.

Jenkinson
joined the paper in 1959 as a reporter and was news editor from 1971 to
1993. He took early retirement the following year.

Jenks, as he
was affectionately known by everyone in the Royal Avenue building,
carried an enormous weight on his shoulders as this newspaper reported
an almost daily diet of atrocity and tragedy.

One of his great
gifts was to remain calm and collected and his reassuring presence
helped reporters to meet their deadlines, despite the difficulties and
dangers many of them faced on the streets. He was an old-style
newspaper man, meticulous in his attention to detail and insisted that
his staff be likewise.

He always had a kind word and, although a
senior figure in the newspaper’s hierarchy, treated newcomers with
courtesy and kindness, putting them at their ease.

Undoubtedly
one of his finest hours was the day after the Belfast Telegraph was
bombed in 1976. The newsroom windows had been shattered and shards of
glass were strewn over the floor.

Jenks, cigarette in hand as
usual, gathered his team around the news desk and detailed their
duties. Despite the abnormality of the situation, only he could have
succeeded in making it another news gathering day.

During his
long years in the news editor’s seat, he trained a succession of
reporters, many of whom, like himself, started on weekly newspapers.

In
his case, it was in Portadown, Co Armagh. He was supposed to train as
an accountant but by a happy accident found himself joining the local
paper because its editor had heard he was a shorthand writer.

The reporters who learnt their trade from Jenks are too numerous to mention.

Some
opted to stay with the Telegraph, others moved on to national
newspapers and television. All have good reason to be grateful to him.

Jenks
was a wonderful storyteller, and during a quiet moment in the newsroom
he would recount some colourful tale. He was widely read, always had a
book on the go, and would often say he was full of useless information.
His interests and hobbies were varied and widespread, like the man
himself. He enjoyed gardening and used to swim daily in the sea. On his
retirement he lived in Newcastle, Co Down.

The current Belfast
Telegraph deputy editor, Jim Flanagan, said: “Jenks was a tremendous
mentor to me when I first joined the newspaper. He co-ordinated our
news coverage during many of Northern Ireland’s darkest days, an
onerous responsibility that he performed with good grace and
distinction.

Although he carried an enormous workload, he always had time to advise and encourage young journalists like myself.

“I
have very fond memories of working with him and he will be remembered
as one of the finest journalists this province has produced.

“For
many years Martin Lindsay, now editor of Sunday Life, and I worked with
Jenks on the news desk. We knew him better than most. He was a very
fine colleague and friend.”

He is survived by his widow, Marlene, and daughters Sonia and Nicola.

David Neely

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