West Midlands local democracy reporter George Makin has died less than two months after revealing he had been diagnosed with incurable cancer.
Makin was among the first cohort of BBC-funded LDRs, covering the Sandwell and Dudley local authorities since 2018, based at Reach’s Birmingham Live newsroom.
He had been a journalist in the West Midlands for more than 20 years, including ten with the Walsall Advertiser , where was made deputy chief reporter before leaving in 2009. He worked in photography and as a press officer, but returned to news with the LDR role.
Colleagues have described Makin as a “top drawer journalist” and “talented writer” with a “wicked wit”, as well as “an important part of the LDR network”.
Birmingham Live editor Graeme Brown said: “George left a lasting impression on the West Midlands through his journalism – but an even longer impression on everyone he met.
“Professionally, he was determined, dogged and tenacious – but always fair.
“But he was more than that – someone always happy to help others and a team-member who always made the working environment better.”
There are plans to set up a new award in Makin’s honour at the next Local Democracy Reporting Service Awards run by the BBC. It will recognise the work of journalists who have been on the scheme for less than a year to help inspire new recruits.
Makin wrote in April about being diagnosed with advanced, incurable lung cancer just four days after getting his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
“In an absurd irony even I’ve had to laugh that I got the life-saving jab only to go and catch the wrong bloody illness,” he wrote.
He took the opportunity to encourage readers to continue working together to beat the coronavirus pandemic: “We are all going to die sometime and the worth of our days is measured by how we act.
“The decisions I make in my remaining time will probably have little impact but our actions on behalf of each other can.”
Matthew Barraclough, editor of the BBC’s Local News Partnerships, said: “George was among the original cohort of Local Democracy Reporters, filing his first story in March 2018 just weeks after the official launch of the scheme. He was a greatly respected and popular member of the team.
“To honour his contribution to the scheme and to his wider journalism career, the 2022 Local Democracy Reporting Service Awards will feature a new category named in his honour.
“The George Makin Award will recognise the work of Local Democracy Reporters who have been in post for fewer than 12 months, ensuring his commitment to public interest journalism continues to be an inspiration for new recruits each year.”
Brown said the award was a “fitting tribute to a brave journalist who proved to be a brave human being to the end”, adding: “He was only with us for a couple of years but nobody at Birmingham Live will ever forget him.”
Makin shared updates on Twitter about his illness, his love of birds and other observations until just a few days ago.
Don’t put off beauty till tomorrow https://t.co/zAVVXc49nW
— george p makin (@GeorgePMakin) June 4, 2021
Other LDRs and Reach employees shared their memories of working with Makin:
Absolutely heartbreaking news. My experience of George through the #LDReporter scheme was that he was a top drawer journalist and a funny and lovely man. RIP George. You will be missed by so many. https://t.co/GzSkKN8DPg
— Anthony Lewis (@tonylewis92) June 17, 2021
Incredibly sad to hear of the passing of fellow LDR @GeorgePMakin this week. He always had a great sense of humour on our weekly hangouts and was clearly a talented writer. Thoughts with his family. https://t.co/F2mIqCos6U
— Steph Brawn (@BrawnJourno) June 17, 2021
I didn’t know George well but he was an important part of the LDR network. He will be missed hugely by us all. Rest in Peace George. https://t.co/d1FKad98VI
— Em Gill (@EmilyEvaGill) June 17, 2021
— Adam Care (@Adam_Care01) June 17, 2021