Mel Warrs, who died of cancer at the age of 55, will be remembered as a first-class, old-fashioned journalist whose enduring professionalism and pride in his craft were undiminished by long bouts of illness.
After initial training on the South Yorkshire Times, Sheffield-born Mel joined the Jersey Evening Post in 1973, working first as a reporter and then as a sub-editor, and learning his craft in the days of hot-metal printing.
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Throughout his time with the JEP, which he left in 1991 because of illness, he displayed meticulous professional skills. As a reporter, he remains the fastest shorthand writer to have worked in the newsroom.
As a sub-editor, he embodied Sir Harold Evans’s famous definition of that job as ‘surgery with words”, combining in abundance all the skills and qualities that make a good
sub and underpinning them with a quiet pride in the role played by journalists as watchdogs for the public interest.
A committed political left-winger with a strong sense of social justice, he was also a pillar of the Jersey branch of the NUJ and a principal architect of the union’s house agreement with the JEP, among the most enduring and comprehensive of its kind in Britain.
Although he was a deeply private person, Mel’s dedication to promoting journalism’s contribution to society and democracy, and his close interest in the development of the JEP were undiminished by the ill health which removed him prematurely from the mainstream of local publishing.
A passionate Sheffield Wednesday supporter, Mel will be remembered for his gentlemanly nature and dry wit.
In recent years, he was able to re-apply his editorial skills to research work for the Jersey Heritage Trust, online publishing for the Jersey Chamber of Commerce and various freelance projects for the JEP, including political sketch-writing and court reporting, on which he was still engaged at the time of his final illness.