Stewart Valdar, one-time editor of the Hampstead News and Marylebone Record, was best known as the man whose ideas extracted Press Gazette from the financial whirlpool that threatened to drown it at birth. He died in hospital on 5 June. He was 90.
The son of a Fleet Street journalist, Lionel Valdar, Stewart was a complete contrast to Jack Reeves, the legendary former Daily Mail advertisement director who also helped in Press Gazette’s rescue. While Reeves was noisy and, occasionally, furious, Stewart was a quiet persuader. What he lacked in volume he more than made up by sharp wits, untiring persistence and a rare gift for empathy that embraced harassed colleagues as well as clients.
His first contribution to the revenue stream of his brother Colin’s brainchild was the News Contacts Directory, a listing of PR contacts which he designed and populated entirely by himself. It made its unobtrusive debut in the paper’s first issue and grew slowly over the years by dint of much patient canvassing.
His second wheeze, which became a serious revenue earner, was the News Briefing. This was a four, six or even eight-page insert, in which major companies, Commonwealth High Commissions and others provided background information on current developments for UKPG’s senior journalist subscribers.
The briefings were a form of advertisement, but to speak that word was to earn swift and firm correction. Stewart was a journalist, he maintained, he didn’t do advertising.
Journalism was the thread that ran through his entire life; a broad stream that encompassed militant atheism, left-wing politics and three marriages, the last of which, to Jean de Lemos, the artist who drew cartoons and line drawings for Press Gazette, became a 33-year partnership.
At 74, he began retirement playing an active role in the Britain Vietnam Association (BVA) and for nine years edited its quarterly broadsheet. Up to his death he also produced Stewart’s News Round, a monthly collage that combined journalism with political agitation and circulated to a small group of similarly minded people, including two MPs.