'True giant of the industry' Bob Satchwell who founded Society of Editors dies aged 73

Society of Editors founder Bob Satchwell, described as “one of the media’s greatest champions”, has died aged 73 after developing pneumonia and Covid-19.

Satchwell founded the Society of Editors in 1999 and remained executive director until he retired due to ill health in 2017.

He edited the Cambridge Evening News for 15 years between 1984 and 1998, during which time the newspaper won a series of awards including Press Gazette Newspaper of the Year in its category in 1993.

He started his career as a reporter on the Lancashire Evening Post in 1970 and rose from graduate trainee to associate editor, winning both Journalist of the Year and Crime Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards in 1977.

He then moved to a stint on Fleet Street as assistant editor on the News of the World.

Satchwell spent several weeks in hospital after developing pneumonia and Covid-19 but after he did not respond to treatment he was moved to a hospice where he spent the last week of his life.

Ian Murray, who succeeded Satchwell as executive director, described him as a “true giant of the industry”. The Society has opened an online book of condolences.

“I know I speak for the board and membership of the Society when I say we have lost one of the media’s greatest champions,” Murray said. “The principles of a free press ran through his veins.

“Bob was one life’s great communicators and this gift made him superbly able to fight his many battles on behalf of the press. From Leveson to the creation of IPSO, from threats to Freedom of Information, to the countless other attempts to stifle free speech, Bob was always there in the fight.

“On a personal level, I had known Bob from the days of the old Guild of Editors. It was his vision that saw the need for a truly national organisation to represent editorial standards and freedoms across the whole media spectrum. We all owe him a huge debt of gratitude.”

Before founding the Society of Editors Satchwell was president of the Guild of Editors in 1997 to 1998 and previously chaired the Guild of Editors’ Parliamentary and Legal Committee.

He was a member of the Editors’ Code Committee, helping to revise the industry code of practice after the death of Princess Diana, and later helped broker the media embargo that prevented the media from reporting on Prince Harry’s tour to Afghanistan.

Organisations for which Satchwell was a member included: the Defence and Security Media Advisory Notice System, e Cabinet Office Media Emergencies Forum, the Ministry of Justice Information Users’ Group, the Home Office Community Cohesion Media Practitioner Group, the Queen’s Jubilee Communications Committee, the Home Office advisory committee for the review of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, the College of Policing Undercover Policing Oversight Board, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Public Interest in Poverty Issues Advisory Board.

He was also chairman of the judges for the British Press Awards and the Northern Ireland Press and Broadcasting Awards, organiser of the Regional Press Awards, a director of the London Press Club and a former board member of the National Council for the Training of Journalists.

His awards included being put into the Press Gazette Regional Newspapers 40 years Hall of Fame in 2006, the Journalists’ Charity Chairman’s Award in the National Press Awards in 2012, and the International Writer’s Award by the International Council of Jurists and Writers in 2014.

Press Gazette editor-in-chief Dominic Ponsford said: “The price of press freedom in the UK is vigilance and industry solidarity, and for many years Bob was the individual who did the most to provide both.

“At Press Gazette we worked closely with Bob over the years on various campaigns to including ‘Don’t Kill FoI’, to save the freedom of information act from being watered down,  and Save Our Sources, to stop the police from using surveillance powers to out journalistic sources.

“Under his watch the annual Society of Editors conference was a focal point to discuss the big issues facing our business providing a much-needed sense of community in our disparate industry.

“I know speak for Press Gazette colleagues past and present when I say: Thank you Bob for all you did for our industry.”

Satchwell’s family said: “As a family we are devastated to lose a true character who was a loving father, brother, husband, son, grandfather and friend.

“Throughout his life Bob has fought and won many battles but is now resting peacefully with his beloved wife Michele.”

A memorial service will be held later in the year to celebrate Bob Satchwell’s life. His family have asked for no flowers but messages of condolence can be sent to satchwellfamily@icloud.com.

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