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Tributes to the media law expert Walter Greenwood

Walter Greenwood Picture: BBC paper monior Walter Greenwood
Picture: BBC paper monior

Tributes to the ‘influential and much-loved’ media law expert Walter Greenwood are being made across the industry.

Greenwood, who for more than 30 years was, with Tom Welsh, co-author of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists – died in Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital at the age of 87.

The obituary in The Telegraph, highlights his approach: “His approach was to know as much law as the professional lawyers so that — as one put it — ‘if you published you might be damned but you would rarely be sued’.”

In his home city of Newcastle, Sky Tyne and Wear carries a tribute from Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors: “To coin a cliche Walter was truly a legend in his own lifetime. Everyone who has had a proper training in journalism, and even those who haven’t, know his work even without registering his name.

“Essential Law for Journalists has been the Bible for several generations of journalists and many of them have been trained by him face-to-face.

“He was a gentle man with immense knowledge and experience that enabled him to pack a powerful punch. His fellowship of the Society of Editors was greeted with loud acclaim. We should celebrate his long life and his immense contribution to journalism and therefore public life generally.”

Best-known for writing the book that countless journalists have poured over as part of their studies, Greenwood spent much of his career working for Thomson Regional Newspapers and Trinity Mirror, and as a law training consultant for Press Association Training.

In the 1960s he was asked to help found Thomson training centres in Newcastle and Cardiff and while there he helped train well-known names such as James Naughtie, Andrew Marr, Lionel Barber, Sally Magnusson, Nic Gowing and Education Secretary Michael Gove.

He continued to play a part in the work of the Newcastle centre, now being run by Press Association Training. Just a month ago, although by now living in a care home because of his health, he was reportedly still checking papers for media law examinations for trainees at the centre.

Tony Johnston, head of Press Association Training told HoldtheFrontPage: “Walter Greenwood was a dedicated, influential and moved loved figure in journalism training and media law for nearly half a century.

“He followed the careers of every trainee who passed through his hands and had a phenomenal memory that allowed him to recall every name, every face and every law exam result going back nearly 50 years.”

Mike Dodd, legal editor at PA added: “He always understood that what an editor wanted to know was not why a story should not be published, but how it could be.”

Greenwood had a long association with many northern titles after beginning his career as a reporter with the Dewsbury Reporter series, and later joined the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette as deputy news editor.

Until recently he was also the head of the National Council for the Training of Journalists’ law board, helping set the standards of legal competence expected of all trainee journalists.

NCTJ chief executive Joanne Butcher said: “He was regarded with great affection and esteem by all who worked with him. Modest, good humoured, a true gentleman, totally professional and committed to standards, he loved newspapers and was passionate about journalism and training.

“I’ll never forget his kindness and support, and will always be grateful for his wise counsel and honest advice.”

Were you one of the many people influenced by Greenwood? Feel free to share your memories and tributes below.

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