Charlie Harris, the President of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, who has been described as “part of the bedrock of British journalism”, died on January 4. A long-standing London Press Club member, Charlie, 60, had been suffering from advanced bowel and liver cancer and had been admitted to the St Luke’s Hospice, Harrow, just after Christmas.
Born and educated in Harrow, he remained in that north London town throughout his life and was the founding editor of the Harrow Times, part of the Newsquest Group, which he developed from a start-up into a hard-hitting, campaigning local title in opposition to the established Harrow Observer.
Barry Brennan, former group editor of the Hendon/Harrow Times, [Charlie’s (nominal) boss; he didn’t need a boss] writes:
Charlie Harris, a former vigorous Press Club member, died in a Harrow hospice near his home on January 4th from cancer.
He was a hugely-respected journalist and – this a great honour – I understand he was the only member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists to be elected president twice.
He was president for the second term when he fell ill, and resigned just recently when unable to carry out his duties. He was admitted to the St Luke’s Hospice on Boxing Day (an organisation for which he had raised large funds while editor of the Harrow Times), and died peacefully.
He grew up in Harrow and loved the borough. So the highest point in his starred journalistic career was in 1997 when Newsquest, having bought the Hendon Times Group along with Westminster Press’s many other titles, decided to quickly launch a Harrow Times.
Quickly was the word. Newsquest chairman Jim Brown and the then second-in-command Paul Davidson told me, as group editor, to produce a free-distribution Harrow Times – this area was entirely alien to us – in just two weeks! No-one but Charlie even knew the name of the mayor.
Apparently the bosses had been working undercover on distribution and printing press slots. They appointed Charlie editor (hooray), I converted our stationery store into the Harrow Times office, hired good freelances and borrowed current Hendon staff to build contacts and stories while I looked for permanent staff (some I poached from the long-established Harrow Observer).
The paper came out on time, we were soon immersed in our intriguing new borough, and thanks to Charlie’s belief in a grass-roots paper with guts to go for “difficult” stories, it was a success and is still running 17 years later.
Earlier, Charlie had been editor of the Borehamwood Times and deputy editor of the Wycombe Star and the Watford Free Observer, but also was greatly involved in training young journalists, specialising in the function of government. For years he was the CIoJ’S representative on the National Council for the Training of Journalists, and in his final years he lectured in journalism at NoSweat college, Brunel University, and Press Association’s training school.
As a person? There have been many tributes, but the one I think gets Charlie best is from former Hendon Times journalist Rick Partridge:
“I can’t remember any particular anecdotes about Charlie, but that in a way WAS Charlie. That was his quality.
“He was self-effacing in his own way, without being shy. He was very good at his job and was always cheerful at work, possessing a wry sense of humour. He never talked down to anyone. He was never a prima donna and I never saw him ‘throw a wobbly’. That, in journalism, deserves our admiration and is why I will miss him.”
Wish I’d said that….
The funeral service will take place on Tuesday, 14th January at 11.00am at the Roman Catholic Church of St Matthew in Northwood, which is on the Metropolitan line.
After the service, Charlie will be interred at Carpenders Park Lawn Cemetery (Oxhey Lane, Watford, WD19 5RL.) Following the burial, a reception will be held at The Harrow Hotel (12-22 Pinner Road, Harrow, HA1 4HZ.)
We would be very grateful if some idea of numbers could be given before Friday 10th January. His family would prefer donations to St Luke’s Hospice rather than flowers and have set up a JustGiving page here: www.justgiving.com/CharlieHarris