News of the World journalist Alan Barter died this week after a long, brave and relentlessly cheerful battle with cancer.
He was a sub-editor at the News of the World for 16 years, but Alan, 70, would much rather have been known by the job description of tabloid hack.
He was proud to be a veteran of this newspaper, as well as The Sun and The Mirror and he felt there was no higher title, no greater calling than what he always referred to as hacking…the transformation of raw copy into dramatic, witty, gritty stories.
Alan joined The Sun in 1977 and was among its brightest stars. He taught one of The Sun’s first women sub-editors Patsy Chapman to write tabloid-style, but insisted on calling her Fred ‘because she’s one of the boys”.
Patsy, who later edited the News of the World, said: ‘Come a big story, a bombing or a train crash, Al Barter would be one of the elite. His words could not be faulted for accuracy, emotion and colour.”
He was known as much for his dangerous rebellious streak as his talent and took particular pleasure in goading bosses every time they passed the subs’ desk, giving them all outrageous nicknames which he used to their faces.
His antics once resulted in him being fired, but he was reprieved when Larry Lamb, the first editor of The Sun, told the trigger-happy executive: ‘You can’t do that…he’s a necessary evil”.
Alan’s first Fleet Street job was at The Daily Mirror in the mid-60s. His chief sub-editor Vic Mayhew said: ‘He was an instant star with great charisma.
‘No story was too great or too small to benefit from Alan’s meticulous care. He made funny stories funnier, and sad stories more poignant.’
Alan went on to buy and edit the weekly News Revue but later returned to Fleet Street to work for the News of the World, where he quickly made an impression with his eccentric dress sense, big belly and even bigger laugh.
For several years he was this newspaper’s Irish chief sub, and his work on a popular features series Great Irish Heroes led to him co-authoring a book of the same name.
He enjoyed nothing better than hard work, and the worse the copy, the better he loved it, because it gave him a chance to work his magic, turning it into ‘loony, lovely gear”.
Alan was 69 when he gave up work but right until the end he was an inspiration to younger colleagues, or ‘the nippers’as he called them, always making time to offer advice and practical help.
News of the World Editor Colin Myler said: ‘In a world increasingly short of real characters, Alan shone like a beacon.
‘He made people smile and they loved him for it. We shall miss him and his immense talent, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Alan was a devoted husband and a proud dad and is survived by his wife Jane, and their children Oliver, Sophie, Rupert, Imogen, Eloise and Dominic.