Mike Pearce, who edited the brash Thanet Times for nearly 20 years, has retired.
Pearce, who referred to his Kent midweek local as a “sleazy little tart”, became a reporter on the Whitstable Times in the early 1960s after seeing an ad in the paper. He had been working as a bus conductor and asked the driver to drop him off at the offices for an interview.
He got the job and eventually became a sub and deputy editor at the Chatham News, a sister in the Associated Kent Newspaper stable, when the legendary Gerald Hinks was editor.
After a spell away from the firm – when he worked in magazines and as a casual on The Sun – he came back as AKN’s group chief sub when the production was centralised at Crown Quay, Sittingbourne. He remained there more than 10 years when he was seconded for three months to the company’s Margate office as editor of the Isle of Thanet Gazette and the Thanet Times.
The two papers could not have been more different. The Gazette was, and is, a staid and authoritative Friday paper.
The TT had been set up in the early 1960s as a cheeky seaside paper to appeal to the day-trippers. Until Pearce’s arrival, though, it had declined into a dull shadow of the Gazette.
“I thought it was odd that the area had two local newspapers. I couldn’t understand why people would want to buy two in the same week,” he said.
“I soon discovered that the Tuesday one was the five-minute read. You would see it read on buses and by taxi drivers, so it wasn’t like a weekend paper that you would browse over at the weekend.
“I thought ‘if tabloids work on a national level, why not on a weekly local?’ I sent it downmarket quite considerably and quickly, and sales soared almost from day one.”
The TT was runner-up one year in the Press Gazette’s regional newspaper awards.
More than 100 friends and former colleagues attended Pearce’s farewell party, and tribute was paid by Murray Evans, Mike’s former deputy chief sub, later editor of the Medway News and East Kent Gazette. Local MP Roger Gale also read a message of congratulations and support from Kelvin MacKenzie.
Some of Mike’s headlines have gone down in Thanet folklore:
Napoleon Blown Apart When the Napoleonic festival in Thanet was ruined due to a storm.
Elephant Ate My Pigeon A pigeon racer’s bird was killed by an elephant at the local zoo.
French nickers When French exchange students rampaged through Margate shops.