When a dear friend dies suddenly and tragically young, the overwhelming feeling is one of sadness.
So it is difficult to explain why on The Sun’s features back bench last week, within hours of hearing of Steve Read’s untimely death, there were fits of giggles and even the odd guffaw of laughter.
Many of us here at The Sun had known Steve for more than 20 years. News of his death was a huge shock. But within hours, the tears had turned to laughter as we reminisced about our pal’s many exploits, eccentricities and incredible lust for life.
Steve started his long career at the Sun as a news sub-editor in 1986 as a new era dawned at Wapping. Before long he had got to grips with the eccentric ‘new technology’ system and quickly rose to the position of deputy chief sub on features.
A colleague recalls admiring the perfect pyramid of ash in the pedestal ashtray as Steve smoked his way through a pack or two while revising copy until the early hours of the morning.
Steve was one of those guys who would do anything for anyone, whether going well out of his way to give a lift home to a stranded colleague or doing the driving on work nights out to allow his mates to hit the sauce. He loved that big old BMW with its heated seats – and we loved the lifts!
It was his helpful, friendly nature that made him the natural candidate to help new members of staff. He would patiently explain the intricacies and quirks of the computer system used to produce The Sun with the cheery offer of a cup of coffee and a cig.
Indeed, it was Steve’s expertise with the old Atex machinery that took him into the world of ITas systems editor after launching The Sun’s original TV guide. Colleague Jerry Holmberg recalls him working through the night to get the TV Guide’s many listings editions done.
Reapplying his dedication as a top production journalist to his new field, he quickly became an indispensable member of The Sun, one of the few who knew every facet of the technical side of producing Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper.
He was the one and only person anyone at The Sun would turn to when they had a problem – from missing keys on a keyboard to getting the first edition out with a computer system in meltdown.
Another colleague remembers being at a Sun think tank in Kent while Stuart Higgins was editor. Present were Sue Carroll, Andy Coulson, Chris Stevens, Ken Lennox and Neil Wallis. They were all talking about a new phenomenon ‘the internet”. Someone asked: ‘What’s the difference between the internet and email?’They all had unconvincing stabs until Stuart said: ‘We’re going to have to ring Steve Read”.
Steve flew a little close to The Sun on a few occasions – taking risks, standing up for the rights of the journalists and always putting the needs of the paper before anything else. It made him a few enemies – but many more friends.
As the paper’s dependence on new technology increased, Steve rose to assistant editor – always able and willing to put forward the voice of the journalist as new, ever more complicated systems were introduced.
In 2004 Steve returned to the features back bench to continue his role as a talented production journalist.
It was while on the back bench that Steve was given his first cruise press trip by me. He instantly fell in love with life on the ocean wave – the trip reigniting memories of his childhood passion. He quickly began to make himself the undisputed expert on all things cruise – taking trip after trip on ALL his holidays, always returning nut brown and beaming with tales to tell of his ocean adventures.
While he may have taken the odd ribbing from colleagues about his love of cruises there was no disputing his talent to bring what had been considered a rather ‘oldie’ holiday to a whole new generation of Sun readers.
When Steve left The Sun to further his love of cruising a freelance in 2007 we were sad to see a much loved friend depart but knew he was going to be doing what he loved most.
Many of us kept in regular touch and Steve still supplied expert commentary and copy from his many trips for The Sun’s travel pages. Only last month he was in his element covering the launch of the new Disney cruise ship for the paper.
Steve was one of the old school – and we will not see his like at The Sun again.
Steve – thanks for the coffees, the cigs, the mint aeros, endless advice and help, the showtunes, the cruise tales and most of all the friendship. You will be missed.