Obituary: Keith Newbery

Keith Newbery with his dog Chester
Keith Newbery with his dog Chester
Picture: Malcolm Wells

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HE WAS a big man in many senses of the word: 6ft 4in tall, winner of national awards to match his renown within provincial newspapers, who knew his own mind and frequently expressed it, but, above all, Keith Newbery was big-hearted.

His close-knit family, friends and the wider community of his beloved Isle of Wight will be joined by former colleagues in Portsmouth and West Sussex in mourning the journalist who enhanced their offices with his high standards of professionalism.

At the age of 10, Keith told his mother that he wanted to write ‘like Peter Wilson’, who was then the best-known sports columnist on the Daily Mirror.

At 16, he emerged from Sandown Grammar School with O-levels in history and English. His mother found a retired teacher, to instil shorthand and typing skills, then spotted an advertisement for a junior reporter at the now-defunct Ryde-based Isle of Wight Times.

So began more than four decades as a reporter, columnist and editor, entirely in local newspapers for, despite winning national awards for his sports and entertainment writing, Keith realised that people like himself could have much more influence on the communities in which they served than national newspapers.

Keith became a junior district reporter for the then Portsmouth Evening News in 1969 and covered events including the first Isle of Wight music festival.

A vacancy came up for his dream job on the sports desk at head office in 1971 but he returned to the Island four years later as the founder editor of the Isle of Wight Weekly Post.

At the same time, he was writing sports columns, television columns, celebrity interviews and opinion pieces for The News and other newspapers in its ownership.

He was an associate editor of The News until becoming editor, later executive editor, of the Chichester Observer series in 1992, where he had overall control of a number of weekly titles until he retired in 2007.

In 2004, he was made MBE for services to journalism.

Keith, who won the Sports Writer of the Year title at the British Regional Press Awards a record four times, also wrote a book of memoirs and anecdotes, Hacking It: Tales of a Very Provincial Newspaper Journalist, which was published in 2003.

He recalled meeting celebrities such as Jimmy Savile – ‘remote and wary’, Barbara Windsor – ‘epitome of a trouper’, Michael Parkinson – ‘we hit it off’, Mo Mowlam – ‘impossible to dislike’ and astronomer Sir Patrick Moore, who in the foreword to Hacking It, said: ‘Being a journalist is far from easy.

‘You have to be honest, firm, skilful and hard-working.

‘Keith has all these qualities and the people who live in our area owe him a great deal.’

- Keith Newbery MBE. Born: September 4, 1948.

Died: August 1, 2014.

Tributes to Keith

Keith’s last column for The News