Friday, 23 May 2014

Guernsey editor Richard bows out after 15 years

Guernsey Press editor Richard Digard ran his last news conference today. Richard, who has edited the Press for almost 15 years, is taking early retirement at the tender age of 60. His has been a colourful career. He has never been one to shy away from controversy and, as a result, has had death threats, cat poo through the letterbox of his home and a legal action which tried to relieve him of his house. Once, after he had written a typically sparky column about boy racers, a procession of 50 cars drove slowly past his house, the young drivers all looking resolutely ahead. He has, though, taken all of this in his stride and certainly makes no apology for rocking the boat. And he was still at it, even to the last. In his valedictory column last Friday, headlined Pain in the proverbial? Someone had to be, he took yet another swipe at the island's government. He wrote: “I’ll let you into a secret. Guernsey's system of government is very poor. Actually, mind-numbingly bad. It doesn't mean to be and there are some pockets of goodness and occasional flashes of excellence or even brilliance. But taken as a whole it consistently lets down the island.” No mellowing with age I see.
Richard’s paper was always a campaigning one - ranging from a Shop a Yob feature, which resulted in several arrests, to raising cash for an Alzheimer’s care home. But it is as a thorn in the side of inefficient politicians and officials that he will be best remembered. The Press has also kept its sale really well under his editorship. In 1996 it was selling 15,847 - today it sells around 14,000. Given what has happened to daily newspapers elsewhere, it is a remarkable performance. There are many reasons for this ... but one of them is that the Press has remained relevant, newsy, top quality and has been prepared to reinvent itself.

Richard's last conference
Despite his prickly professional persona, Richard is one of the good guys of newspapers. I first met him 17 years ago when he was deputy editor. Since then I have helped redesign the paper twice (taking it from broadsheet to compact  in 1999), run the journalists' training scheme and assisted with the restructuring of the newsroom. It has been a joy - one of my favourite places to visit. Richard and his team have always been massively hospitable and I have enjoyed many a pint (and the odd glass of Sancerre) with him in the Ship and Crown in St Peter Port. The new editor will be announced in the Press on Monday. Richard and his wife Di, the paper's features editor, will be having a few farewell drinks next week. My flight is already booked. 

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