The Society of Editors has been saddened by news of the death of its founding executive director Bob Satchwell.
Bob had spent the last few weeks in hospital after developing pneumonia and covid-19, but sadly did not respond to treatment and spent the last week of his life in a hospice before passing away peacefully, his family announced today (Wednesday, March 3).
Bob, who was 72, was co-founder of the Society of Editors in 1999. Bob started as a reporter on the Lancashire Evening Post in 1970, went on to become assistant editor for the News of the World, and then edited the Cambridge Evening News from 1984 to 1998.
Ian Murray, who took over from Bob as executive director of the SoE when he stepped down due to illness in 2017, paid tribute to a ‘true giant of the industry.’
“I know I speak for the board and membership of the Society when I say we have lost one of the media’s greatest champions. The principles of a free press ran through his veins.
“Bob was one life’s great communicators and this gift made him superbly able to fight his many battles on behalf of the press. From Leveson to the creation of IPSO, from threats to Freedom of Information, to the countless other attempts to stifle free speech, Bob was always there in the fight.
“On a personal level, I had known Bob from the days of the old Guild of Editors. It was his vision that saw the need for a truly national organisation to represent editorial standards and freedoms across the whole media spectrum.
“We all owe him a huge debt of gratitude.”
Bob’s family said in a statement issued today: “As a family we are devastated to lose a true character who was a loving father, brother, husband, son, grandfather and friend.
“Throughout his life Bob has fought and won many battles but is now resting peacefully with his beloved wife Michele. “
There will be a memorial service later this year to celebrate Bob’s life, further details to be confirmed. Please respect the family’s privacy at this time, no flowers please but any messages of condolence would be gratefully received via email@example.com.”
Doug Wills, chair of the London Press Club, said: “Bob was admired and respected throughout the media, and was a personal friend of many of us. His spirit and love for the news business and its people were only matched by his commitment to fighting for press freedom and his personal loyalty. We were deeply saddened when he was suddenly taken seriously ill, and now at his death. We will miss him greatly.”
Bob Satchwell biography:
Bob Satchwell was executive director of the Society of Editors from its foundation in 1999 until his retirement due to ill health in 2017. He was the award-winning editor of the Cambridge Evening News from 1984 to 1998. He was President of the Guild of Editors 1997-98, which became the Society of Editors in 1999.
The Society of Editors has members in national, regional and local newspapers, magazines, broadcasting and digital media, media law and journalism education. It campaigns for media freedom, the wider right to freedom of expression, freedom of information and the public’s right to know and for the maintenance of high media standards.
He was previously chairman of the Guild of Editors’ Parliamentary and Legal Committee. He was also a member of the Editors’ Code Committee, which produces the newspaper and magazine industry’s Code of Practice that is policed by the Press Complaints Commission. He helped revise the code after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
He was a member of the Defence and Security Media Advisory Notice System and the Cabinet Office Media Emergencies Forum. He brokered the understanding between the media and the Chief of the General Staff that led to the news embargo during Prince Harry’s deployment to Afghanistan. He was a member of the Ministry of Justice Information Users’ Group, the Home Office Community Cohesion Media Practitioner Group, the Queen’s Jubilee Communications Committee and the Home Office advisory committee for the review of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. He was also a member of the College of Policing Undercover Policing Oversight Board. He was a member of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Public Interest in Poverty Issues Advisory Board. He was an advisor to the Greater Cambridge Partnership and Cambridge Futures. He was a Trustee of the Cambridgeshire Communities Foundation and serves on a number of charity committees.
He was chairman of the judges for the British Press Awards and the Northern Ireland Press and Broadcasting Awards, organiser of the Regional Press Awards, a trustee of the CPU Media Trust and a director of the London Press Club. He was a former board member of the National Council for the Training of Journalists.
He was an Associate Press Fellow at Wolfson College, Cambridge, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He regularly contributed to the Speakers for Schools programme and was a member of the Newspaper Qualifications Council. He was an external examiner at the London College of Communications and at the Department of Journalism, University of Central Lancashire. He was a member of the print industry advisory panel at the School of Journalism, University of Lincoln.
He started his career with the Lancashire Evening Post in 1970 where he rose from graduate trainee to associate editor. He was Journalist of the Year in the British Press Awards for 1977 and Crime Reporter of the Year in the same year. He went to Fleet Street as assistant editor of the News of the World before returning to regional newspapers as editor of the Cambridge Evening News in 1984. He was included in the Press Gazette Regional Newspapers 40 years Hall of Fame in 2006. He was awarded the Journalists’ Charity Chairman’s Award in the National Press Awards for 2012 and he was awarded an International Writer’s Award by the International Council of Jurists and Writers in 2014.
During his tenure the Cambridge Evening News was one of the most successful regional newspapers in Britain. It was Press Gazette Newspaper of the Year in its category for 1993 and Daily Newspaper of the Year in the BT Awards for the London and Homes Counties North region for 1994. It won Newspaper Society prizes for best circulation increases in 1993, 1995, and 1996. It was also named Community Newspaper of the Year for 1996. He retired from the editorship at the end of 1998 after 15 years.
He was a frequent broadcaster and speaker, debater and lecturer on media issues, press freedom, freedom of information, business ethics, leadership, business in the community and strategic public relations. He is an editorial consultant to various organisations including web sites.
Bob had two daughters and two stepsons. His wife Michele died suddenly in July 2013. He was educated at Lancaster Royal Grammar School (president of the Old Lancastrian Club 2004-2005) and the London School of Economics (BSc Econ. 1970). His interests included rugby union and offshore sailing.
Featured photo: 10/11/14 – Bob Satchwell, Director of The Society of Editors, speaks about police and the media at the annual Society of Editors Conference hosted by the Grand Harbour Hotel, Southampton. Photo: Ian Hinchliffe