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February 15, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 11:02am

‘Pioneering’ ex-Sheffield Star editor Colin Brannigan dies aged 84

By Peter Goodman

Colin Brannigan, editor of The Star, Sheffield, for ten years from 1968 to 1978 and a pioneering giant in the newspaper industry both locally and nationally, has died at a hospice near his home in Ripon, North Yorkshire aged 84.

The son of a Lancashire butcher, he joined the Star as a sub editor in the early 60s and quickly rose through the ranks to become news editor and then editor, only the paper’s tenth in 80 years.

Colin was best known for his fervent campaigning zeal on behalf of readers, taking up a wide range of local issues to improve their wellbeing. His achievements had a profound and lasting impact on welfare services in the Sheffield region and his ability to identify problems in the community led to him winning a top national award in 1970, Campaigning Journalist of the Year, in the British Press Awards for a campaign called On Our Conscience.

It uncovered vulnerable people in the Sheffield area who were in need of help and a team of journalists worked for several months to identify and highlight areas of neglect, their work leading to the publication of a Penguin paperback.

Nationally, he held various positions in the industry and served as president of the Guild of Editors from 1979 to 1980. He was also a council member of the Guild of Editors and chairman of the National Council for the Training of Journalists.

He made more than 20 television appearances to talk about the industry and was also invited to lunch at Buckingham Palace where he found himself sitting next to the Queen.

He visited Northern Ireland several times during the Troubles and a series of articles he produced on the living conditions of British soldiers were discussed in Parliament.

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Colin, who was awarded the OBE for services to journalism in 1993, left The Star in 1978 to become editorial director of Essex County Newspapers and, later, deputy chief executive of Reed Southern Newspapers before retiring.

He leaves a widow, Joy, son Garry, daughters Colette and Pip and four grandchildren.

Former editor of The Star Alan Powell, who was a junior reporter when he first met Colin, said: “He was the sort of editor all young and aspiring reporters needed – full of praise when you did things right, and straight talking but still supportive when you got things wrong.

“He was also a visionary. He started a region-wide collaboration of local authorities called the 44 Group in the 1960s because he believed that acting regionally was a better option than councils going it alone. Remarkably, more than 50 years later it acted as a template for the Sheffield City Region.

“Colin believed a newspaper’s community of readers was at the centre of everything they should do. Hundreds of journalists who worked under him as editor have taken that mantra forward.”

Former colleague Nigel Pickover said: “Colin was a trailblazing editor who lit a path for those who followed him.

“I had a disagreement with him at interview but he clearly forgave me as he appointed me as a trainee reporter with The Star and we stayed in close touch over five decades.

“He was a passionate, campaigning editor and I had his guiding spirit alongside as I fought my own battles,” added Nigel, who edited three dailies including The Eastern Daily Press and the Ipswich Star.

“It was true to Colin’s pioneering attitude that on retirement he launched Brannigan’s Newsletter, a guide to the latest news in the developing online world of newspapers. It became an early touchstone for the digital age.”

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