Ron Hunt: editor who single-handedly made daily paper

Former regional newspaper editor and Press Gazette Hall of Fame member Ron Hunt died on Friday, aged 77.

Hunt had a 60-year career in journalism which began when he joined the Leamington Morning News at the age of 15 and ended just two months before he sufffered a series of strokes over Christmas 2006.

He will be best remembered for his remarkable acheivement as editor of the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph. After overseeing the switch to new technology, he had to cope with an NUJ walkout in December 1976, which turned out to be the longest in the union’s history.

It lasted for 24 weeks and Hunt brought the paper out himself single-handed every day.

Hunt started as an office boy in his native Warwickshire at Leamington Spa, before becoming an apprentice reporter. He spent his National Service in the RAF before returning to the newspaper industry in Birmingham, working for the Gazette, Despatch and Sunday Mercury Group.

He returned to the Leamington Morning News as chief reporter before joining Emap in 1969 as its first editorial training officer.

In 1971, Ron moved to be editor-in-chief at West Suffolk Newspapers in Bury St Edmunds, before becoming editor of the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph and executive editor for Emap provincial newspapers

In 1986, he became editor of the Diss Express and then in 1992 he started his own journalism training business. He recieved an MBE for services to journalism in the same year.

His grandson Robert Hunt said: “I would like to thank on behalf of the family the well-wishers from the very beginning, and to all of the cycling and work colleagues who have shown support.

“I am sure that you are all aware Ron will be sorely missed by many, many people.”

Present Diss Express editor Steven Penny said: “I first came across Ron early in my career when he was training at a newspaper I worked at in Yorkshire.

“He was such a fantastic teacher, full of enthusiasm for the subject – not just the traditions of the job but was also fully up-to-date and enthused by the very latest technology.

“He came to see me the very first week I started at the Diss Express and was always there for a friendly chat about life as a weekly newspaper editor and always enjoyed talking to the newest trainees to share his ideas with them.

“I would regularly see Ron in Mere Street, always with a crowd of friends and well wishers round him – he had time for everyone.

“He will be sorely missed, not only by the newspaper industry but by the Diss and district community at large.”

Ron leaves a widow, Joan, four daughters and five grandchildren.

Ron Hunt was one of 40 journalists named in the Press Gazette Regional Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2006.

The following Hall of Fame citation was written by Peter Bennett:

“It’s more than sixty years since Ron Hunt first stepped on the long and winding road to the newspaper world. He was 15 and had got himself a job on his local paper, the Leamington Morning News as an office worker. It wasn’t long before he moved upstairs to become an apprentice reporter.

“Then, after an 18-month spell with the RAF, he returned to Leamington before moving to Litchfield as district reporter for the Birmingham Gazette.

“In 1954 he was chief reporter for the Leamington Courier and in 1969 became Emap’s first editorial training officer. Promotion to editor in chief of the West Suffolk papers followed in 1971.

“Ron answered the call again in 1974 when he was appointed editor of the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph. It wasn’t all smooth riding for the editor. For a start, he had to oversee the switch to new premises with new technology, and there was a history of robust activity from the local branch of the National Union of Journalists.

“After a series of conflicts, which had already resulted in the departure of a previous editor, Evening Telegraph journalists walked out of their new premises on December 6, 1976 – and this was to become the longest strike in NUJ history. It lasted for 24 weeks and from that dark day in December to the end of the strike in May, 1977, Ron Hunt single-handedly brought out the Evening Telegraph every day.

The strike over, Ron went on to serve the Evening Telegraph before being appointed executive editor of EMAP’s newspaper division at Peterborough, a post which he held for three years.

“This was followed by editorship of the Diss Express division, where the papers became the first to fully embrace new technology.

“Worthy recognition for his work to newspapers came in 1992 when he was awarded the MBE.

“In recent years, Ron has made a name for himself in newspaper consultancy, travelling far and wide for a number of companies.

“Now, in 2006, 61 years after that walk into the offices of Leamington Morning News, Ron has called time on newspapers.” 

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