Owen Smith: journalist and television producer

Unlike some who attain the dizzy heights of a glamorous job in national TV news, Owen Smith never acquired an inflated opinion of his own importance.

Smith regarded himself as a jobbing journalist and often used his razorsharp wit to distract attention from the fact that he was also a consummate professional.

Born and bred in Liverpool, he was proud of his Scouse roots and possessed an innate common touch that never left him.

A big man with a generous spirit, Smith would heap scorn and derision on any hack who might dare to describe him with the cliché “larger than life”.

He had a joke for every occasion- frequently aimed to shock – unerringly followed by a boyish grin calculated to disarm his audience.

His flair for communication saw him reach the widest audience in the UK in his time at ITN, yet he patiently encouraged younger journalists who were lucky enough to work with him.

“Smithy” started work on the Bootle Times in the Seventies. From there he was nabbed by Mercury Press and used a two-year spell with the agency as a springboard to land a staff job on The Sun in Manchester.

Next he switched to the small screen and a newsdesk job at Central TV. From there he moved to ITN and became a home news editor on News at Ten in its heyday.

He helped launch Associated Press Television News and was a key player there for eight years.

Smith’s career was cut short with his untimely death at the age of 50 while working as a producer on Channel 4’s Richard and Judy Show . He collapsed and died at his London home from a suspected heart attack.

Nigel Baker, managing director of APTN, said: “Owen was a delight to work with and a key figure on our newsdesk. He had a knack for using humour to bring people through adversity.

“It’s impossible to think of Owen without smiling and recalling his talent for laughter combined with great professionalism. Everyone is saddened at this great loss to journalism.”

Ken Tucker, former northern news editor of The Sun , said: “When he joined us he could not spell but didn’t see why that should get in his way.

The first thing I did was send him out to buy a pocket dictionary, which he did with a smile.

“He was a brilliant journalist and a lovely man with a great sense of humour, who was always on the side of the underdog.”

Mercury Press editor Chris Johnson said: “I counted Owen not only as a valued colleague but as a reliable friend. Owen did love to play the fool but he was also the real McCoy – a very astute journalist who analysed and distilled facts with great skill.

“His sense of humour was notorious but people found that he always got away with wicked gags. I believe that was because he had perfected the art of disarming self-deprecation.

“Owen was a class act all round. It was a pleasure to have known him.”

Smith leaves his partner Margaret Comber and their children William, five, and Amy, one.

Chris Johnson

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