Eric Price: the ultimate editor's editor
Yesterday, the Western Daily Press announced the death of it former editor Eric Price. Here are several of the tributes to the great newspaperman received following that announcement.
In 1960, Eric Price quit the Daily Express – then the flagship of Fleet Street – to return to his native West Country to rescue the near-terminally ailing Western Daily Press. He hit it like a tornado, transforming a grey and sleepy provincial daily into a gutsy mid-market broadsheet, with a powerful blend of national and regional news.
It looked so much like the Express that one seasoned Express staffer visiting Bristol bought it by mistake and was halfway down the street before he noticed. It worked. The circulation went from 12,000 to 55,000 in five years and went on to peak at nearly 80,000. The paper was packed with stories, and hard-hitting campaigns: he branded the Daily Press as "the paper that fights for the West." It was the champion of regional causes, such as Concorde and the Port of Bristol, but the ferocious opponent of bureaucracy in all its forms – civil servants, town planners, municipal officialdom – pretentious Tory pomp, and interfering Socialism.
Eric was a ball of energy with a passion for journalism that often exploded into anger, moderated – thank God! – by his great sense of fun. He believed fervently that newspapers were invented for journalists to enjoy themselves. He was irascible, raging and outrageous. But all this was redeemed by his touchingly schoolboyish sense of humour – he would put drawing pins on sub-editors' seats, and light little fires under them. It was a stark contrast to hurling the office teapot across the room, which also happened from time to time. No one slept while Eric was on.
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His essential journalistic talent was that he was the great sub-editor: hacking and re-writing copy to give it zip, and insisting on punchy and provocative headlines. Subs, he said, were "the uncrowned kings of journalism". This made the Western Daily Press the accredited boot camp for sub-editors with ambition. It was a great training ground if you could stay the course. Sadly, some recruits made it only as far as the supper break on their first night. But those who survived went on to provide Fleet Street with a generation of battle-scarred professionals. Eric could be inspiring and exasperating in equal measure. But that was his charm. He was a great mentor, boss and friend. He was the ultimate editor's editor.
Editor, Western Daily Press 1980-2001; deputy to Eric Price 1971-2001
RIP in that subs' room in the sky
May I add my own very small tribute to Eric Price, I worked as a staff photographer for the Western Daily Press from 1961-1969. He taught a young very in-experienced snapper how to produce publishable photographs I had terrific respect and admiration for him, and was equally terrified of his wrath.
I have many memories, good and bad of "Mr. Price". His desk in the subs' room was diagonally opposite the door. I would drop my pictures on his desk and walk quickly to the door, hoping to make my escape, before hearing his voice roar. "Mr Walker, do you expect me to use this rubbish in my newspaper". At which point he would tear the prints into tiny pieces and throw them into the rubbish bin. In these enlightened times, it could be called workplace abuse, but in those days, I just wanted to take better pictures and prove him wrong. And I did. I must add the pictures deserved scrapping.
Many, many, thanks Eric Price, any small successes, I may have had, are thanks to you. Rest in peace, in the great subs' room in the sky.
Former Western Daily Press photographer
Thanks for some amazing memories
I have no doubt you will be inundated with letters from journalists still bearing the scars of working with the brilliant, unpredictable Eric Price.
I was one in the early 1970s, and echo the recollections of Chris Rundle in your superb obituary. In my case, working as a sub-editor on a daily paper for the first time, it was mostly paper clips that were fired by Eric into my hair from across the table as I struggled with a headline which I found impossible to write in the space allocated.
On one occasion I had only two lines in which to describe a delicate situation in the Middle East. Both sides were discussing the issue, so my attempt was: "Gunboat talks". From across the table came the question from Eric: "Mr Horobin, what did this gunboat say?" The outcome was simple and the new headline: "Gunboat crisis".
I was also one of those who left the Daily Press after learning a great deal. Eric wrote a stinging letter to the BBC when I handed in my notice... not because I was a terrible loss. But because he was Eric. Thanks for some amazing memories.
Lyme Regis, Dorset
You have to wonder?
How sad to read that former Daily Press editor Eric Price has died. You have to wonder what he thought of the current coloured picture puzzle paper complete with spelling and grammatical mistakes.
S M Adams