Merry Christmas and many thanks as campaigning EDP editor-in-chief Nigel Pickover bids fond farewell
PUBLISHED: 08:00 24 December 2016
Archant Norfolk 2013
EDP editor-in-chief Nigel Pickover sends festive greetings as he gears up for retirement after a 44-year career on regional and national daily newspapers.
This year’s “Happy Christmas” to our readers, advertisers, newsagents and delivery boys and girls, has an extra significance for me as 2016 comes to an end.
For it will be my last seasonal message after a career enjoyed across five decades – from cub reporter, with notebook clasped in hand, hope held in heart and pen wedged next to ear...to today when I hold the editor’s chair with such pride and joy.
My immediate duty is to say thanks to my wife and family, the bedrock on which my career on three national and five regional dailies has been based.
Hospital lead teacher Ruth, who I often say has a much more responsible job than mine, four wonderful children, two grandchildren (and counting) and a bouncing, bounding, Labrador retriever called Saracen, now regain me from the testing crucible of news and storytelling.
It’s been an exciting, demanding, sometimes emotional, rollercoaster of a ride when my newspapers always have been at the forefront of community and campaigning.
My journalists and I have won countless campaigns – but became doubly victorious in our wider careers because we didn’t buckle in the face of forces who often didn’t want our stories to be told.
My current team are news warriors in every sense of the word and have made me proud every day I’ve worked with them on the EDP and Norwich Evening News.
They epitomise the very best of regional newspaper and website journalism – as the various teams have done through the years, always reporting, taking pictures, and writing headlines with community at heart.
While I’m here...news teams are nothing without the support of commercial colleagues in Norfolk led by the indomitable Andy Orchard, distribution teams and printers – as well as the unique blend of support staff across many functions.
I thank all of the various teams which bring out the EDP, proudly the country’s largest regional morning paper, as well as a myriad of our other titles.
Coming to Norwich after 16 years in Suffolk I couldn’t have been happier as I stood outside our Archant building with accomplished senior journalist and publishing director Bob Crawley.
I have to say I wasn’t daunted, more excited that the great city and wonderful county and I were finally together.
I grew to love Norwich and its people – the affection was returned and, similarly, my welcome in Norfolk, Fenland Cambridgeshire and north Suffolk was astonishing.
I met warm and kind people, from all walks of life, who wanted me to cherish and protect their EDP. I grew to know them well, as I did for the county of Norfolk, already knowing the highways and byways of sister county Suffolk.
I hope I have repaid that faith since 2012. And so to some of the moments which have given me such happiness in the final years of a career which started in the then steel city of Sheffield and took in Manchester, York and Ipswich before the Norwich finale.
When I went to various parts of Norfolk I felt like I was opening a door to a magical world – Breckland, Broadland, South Norfolk, the east and north coasts in particular.
I have found particular pleasure in getting to know two of the less-glamorous Norfolk towns, Thetford and Great Yarmouth, and quickly learned to challenge those who sneer and snipe at these towns, often without ever having been there.
I wish both towns – and the passionate people who are trying to bring in exciting tomorrows – well and encourage one and all to visit and get aboard great emerging stories.
I grew to love the Thursford Christmas Spectacular and found friendship with Barbara and John Cushing.
I enjoyed great relationships with Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s Brendan Joyce, Norfolk Community Foundation’s Graham Tuttle, and the Norwich Theatre Royal’s Peter Wilson.
I’ve been proud to launch campaigns aimed at getting a better 999 ambulance service, and to take on those who drink and drive and those who use their mobile phones whilst driving.
We’ve pointed out flaws in the “mad-rush” devolution process and raised huge sums after two fire tragedies and the storm-surge crisis of 2013. The EDP’s battle for flood victims raised an incredible £300,000, paid out within days thanks to the Norfolk Community Foundation.
We raised large sums after fires wrecked the centre of Fakenham and the market area of Great Yarmouth.
In Suffolk we had much fun exposing the by-election day spelling mishap of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair. Despite strong denials from No 10, Mr Blair’s team later had to admit he’d twice written extra o’s in tomorrow – so we came up with the splash headline ‘Toony Blair’.
Later I was to hand him a copy of his own front page at a meeting attended by then-Norwich MP Charles Clarke. “Thank you very much,” he said between clenched teeth.
In Suffolk we fought for badly-burned baby Terri Calvesbert raising over £600,000 for her onward care. The fund trustees, of which I’m one, still hold that sum to this day having paid out for Terri’s needs along the way.
From notebooks and pens to mobile phones which take great pictures, change has been a constant and our journalists are now better equipped than ever.
Today some of our best video and picture content comes from readers – a boon to us from ‘citizen’ journalism.
BACK IN TIME
It’s not just journalism that’s changed, so has crime! As a crime reporter in Yorkshire, armed robberies at banks were commonplace. I once got caught up in one and was first at the dumped getaway car.
I reported on the laborious search for the Yorkshire Ripper and was out in Sheffield, reporting from the now less-terrified streets, after Peter Sutcliffe was finally caught.
My team is Blackpool and I’ve had the joy of seeing the Tangerines go up to the Premier League at Wembley and have watched Norwich City and Ipswich Town do the same, with simply marvellous newspapers, websites and supplements along the way.
And I scored at the old Wembley in a sponsored match representing a scratch England team against Austria. What a feature that made with the headline: ‘They think it’s Pickover, it is now’.
From newspaper greats – David Mastin and Peter Goodman, the late Ron Roland, in Sheffield – to my hero, legendary Blackpool footballer Jimmy Armfield, who was a sports writer on the Daily Express in Manchester when I was there, I’ve enjoyed the company of terrific colleagues.
So I finish now by mentioning of few of the current crop, wishing well the duo of Group Editor Norfolk Dave Powles and Editor Norwich Ian Clarke who will take charge of the newsroom once I have departed on January 1. I wish them well – your news and your communities are in their capable hands.
Similarly, across the Archant portfolio where new digital dawns will continue to emerge I wish Chief Content Officer Matt Kelly and his team all the very best. I salute my Suffolk colleagues through many years, EADT Editor Terry Hunt, Mike Pennock and Peter Blythe for their hard work and dedication.
And finally to another rock, Sandra MacKay, newsroom mother and my PA in Norwich. I’d have been a poorer editor without her.
END OF AN ERA?
I’ve been given the great honour of being called Editor Emeritus as I retire and will have two columns in 2017, Wild in Anglia and Travel.
So I won’t be too far away. Thank so much for all your support, and all the fun and laughter along the way.
Career produced more than 20 top industry awards
Nigel, 61, became the first journalist to edit three of Archant’s daily titles,which have won more than 20 newspaper of the year awards under his stewardship.
Last year, the EDP beat off challenges from national and regional newspapers, to scoop the Best in Britain Grand Prix title at the prestigious Newspaper Industry Awards in London.
Highlights have been many but raising over £300,000 for Norfolk and Suffolk flood victims, the publication of three profitable books, one using the Archant archive to celebrate the 90th birthday of The Queen, the successful EDP/EN support of the GoGo Dragons extravaganza in 2015, and the launch of Stars of Norfolk and Waveney and Stars of Suffolk, stand out.