|Top row: Current newspaper editors - Booth, Bowyer, Clifford, O'Neill and Sassi|
Bottom row: Former newspaper editors Irwin, Perch, Hall, Cook and Lowe
Can any other newsroom claim to have spawned so many editors? I doubt it. So what was the secret of this medium-size 90s' provincial newsroom that made it the editor factory for the regional Press?
Well, it was a very different time. Editorial was the most important department. Circulations were strong, revenues good and digital was only just becoming an issue. Newsrooms weren’t run by committee and didn't suffer interference from other departments. In Northcliffe in particular, the editor was king. And in Mike Lowe, the Telegraph had a strong king. Simon O’Neill, assistant editor at the time, says: "Derby was definitely not a democracy. Mike ruled and that was that. Strangely though, we all had latitude to do pretty much as we wanted, in terms of expressing ourselves.
"Standards were high, to the point of being brutal and with so many talented people around the place, everybody was hell bent on not being the one who let the side down. We tended to drive ourselves and each other forward each day.”
Mike Lowe himself can't put a finger on why Derby nurtured so many execs. He says: "I don't know why that relatively brief period should have turned out so many editors. We were very lucky in recruiting good people and we tried to create a newsroom environment in which they could thrive. It was quite traditional and hierarchal, which some people wouldn't have liked, but we turned out excellent newspapers and, importantly, we had a lot of fun doing it. We also had the backing of good MDs in Steve Anderson-Dixon and Tim Kitchen (both of whom were from a commercial background, rather than financial).”
I remember the Derby team from those days. It was very macho - not a woman in sight - hard-drinking, hard-working and highly competitive.
The Telegraph sent a football team on tour and I remember them playing The Northern Echo side ... and, boy, were they brutal. They were the only team our side ever refused to drink with afterwards. So maybe that was it. Mike Lowe (a lifelong Manchester United fan) ran his newsroom like a football team - talented individuals in the right places with clear goals and strong leadership. They had a bunch of hardmen in the middle who were prepared to have a go. They also had self-belief and a real fear of failure. It wouldn’t work these days, of course. Would it?