Howard Faircloth

Howard Faircloth who edited The News in Portsmouth during the years the newspaper was in the forefront of technological change and, at the same time, fighting to reduce the power and influence of the print unions, has died at the age of 86.

He spent his whole career with the same newspaper, starting as a junior in 1939 only to have his career interrupted by six years' war service in the Royal Navy, during which he rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander.

On his return to journalism, he was a natural choice to become the newspaper's naval correspondent, a job he fondly undertook, as well as becoming deputy news editor, until appointed editor in 1965.

In the ensuing years, he led the newspaper during its transfer from hot metal production to computerised photo typesetting and offset litho printing. It was during disputes with the National Graphical Association and the National Union of Journalists, resulting in strike action, that Mr Faircloth would produce his newspaper almost single-handed.

He was a campaigning editor who, when Margaret Thatcher's defence secretary, John Knott, ordered swingeing cuts in the number of Royal Navy ships and personnel, orchestrated a "Keep the Fleet" counter-attack and petition which attracted tens of thousands of signatures and which he delivered personally to Downing Street.

It seemed he had a sixth sense, for it was not long afterwards the Royal Navy was called upon to put together a task force to liberate the Falklands. A strict disciplinarian and staunch Methodist, it was during the ensuing war that he went against the trend of modern journalism by ordering his staff not to intrude into the grief of Portsmouth naval families whose loved ones had been killed or injured. "If they don't want to talk to us, we leave them alone," was his edict.

Faircloth was president of the Wessex Region of the Guild of British Newspaper Editors on three different occasions, and served on the guild's national council. An early advocate of formal training for journalists, he was a member of the Southern Region Advisory Committee of the NCTJ.

He is survived by a widow, Christine, a daughter and a grand-daughter.


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