A former editor who helped herald in the era of free newspapers during the early 1980s has died aged 68.
Vince Price was editor of the award-winning West London Informer group, which he built up from a handful of ‘shoppers’ with no news content into the largest editorial-led free newspaper series in Europe.
At its peak, the Informer had a staff of more than 30 journalists, 13 editions and a combined distribution of 850,000 copies a week. The biggest title, the Staines Informer, regularly carried 120 pages.
Former colleague Gray Clark, who went on to become chief photographer, said: “At the start, there was just me, Vince, a reporter and a sub-editor working from an office above a shop in Kingston. And Vince shook things up big time.
“He had been brought in by the Informer’s new owners, the Essex Yellow Advertiser series, to revamp the titles into real quality newspapers, and he achieved this extraordinary turnaround despite having to fight many fierce battles against ‘diehards’ among the existing management.
“Vince was the most remarkable editor I have ever worked with and a truly remarkable man.
“Journalists are a nomadic lot, never staying for long in one place, but under Vince’s relaxed but utterly professional style of leadership they remained for years, such was the loyalty, devotion and respect he inspired among his staff.”
Born in Enfield, North London, Vince started out in newspapers in 1966 as a photographer on the weekly Walthamstow and Leyton Guardian, and photography was to remain a passion throughout his life.
But driving back from a job one day he saw police throwing a cordon around a house and discovered he had chanced upon a murder scene. Being the only journalist present, he landed not only a bylined picture exclusive but provided the words as well.
The scoop gave Vince his break into news reporting. After a spell on general news, he joined the Walthamstow Guardian’s crime desk where his penchant for accuracy earned him the trust and respect of his police contacts – and of the local criminal fraternity.
He once received a phone call purportedly from an associate of the Krays passing on the gangster twins’ compliments for always “telling it like it is”. He later remarked to a colleague: “I’m not sure how I feel about this – what if I ever write something they don’t like?”
Next stop for Vince was the Harlow Gazette where he became a sub-editor. National newspaper journalist Jacqui Thake first worked with Vince as a cub reporter at the Gazette in 1976.
She said: “I was pretty clueless in those days, but Vince took me under his wing and showed endless patience and kindness. He constantly despaired of my ability, but gritted his teeth and somehow shaped me into a useful member of staff.
“Then in 1983, he took me on as editor of the Ruislip Informer, and later promoted me to deputy group editor. It was thrilling to be part of the rapidly expanding editorial focus of the newspapers under his strong leadership.
“While he had a huge job as group editor, he always found time to help with any problems and issues, and his very dry sense of humour made going to work exciting and fun. If it hadn’t been for all Vince taught me, I know I would never have got into national newspapers.”
Vince left the Informer in 1987 to help launch a free newspaper series in North London before moving to Colchester to edit a chain of national magazines for an independent publishing house.
He later moved back to the capital and was a production editor at Haymarket magazines in Teddington and then at satirical magazine Punch until being made redundant in the final years before it folded.
In 1993, he went to edit bus industry magazines at what is now Ruxley Communications in Surrey.
His final five years were spent in retirement with partner Anne in the Cambridgeshire Fens. Here, he was well placed to enjoy his other great love – writing articles about steam railways, canals and country life and having them published along with his stunning photographs.
Vince died from cancer. His ashes will be scattered along the tracks of the Bluebell steam railway in Sussex at his request.
(Picture: Keith Stretten)