Reg Cudlipp

Second of the three newspaper-editing brothers

Reg Cudlipp was the last survivor of three Welsh brothers who, uniquely, all edited national newspapers. By 1953, when he became editor of the News of the World, his elder brother, Percy, had already edited the London Evening Standard and the Daily Herald, while the younger, Hugh (later Lord Cudlipp), had been editor of the Sunday Pictorial and would go on to control all the Mirror Group newspapers. Percy died in 1962 and Hugh in 1998. With the death last year of Percy's son Michael - formerly an executive with The Times - the Cudlipp newspaper dynasty is at an end.

Reginald Cudlipp, journalist: born Cardiff 11 December 1910; staff, News of the World 1938-40, 1946-59, Features Editor 1948-50, Deputy Editor 1950-53, Editor 1953-59; Director, Anglo-Japanese Economic Institute 1961-86; Editor, Japan 1961-86; married 1945 Rachel Braham; died Chichester, West Sussex 21 January 2005.

Reg Cudlipp was the last survivor of three Welsh brothers who, uniquely, all edited national newspapers. By 1953, when he became editor of the News of the World, his elder brother, Percy, had already edited the London Evening Standard and the Daily Herald, while the younger, Hugh (later Lord Cudlipp), had been editor of the Sunday Pictorial and would go on to control all the Mirror Group newspapers. Percy died in 1962 and Hugh in 1998. With the death last year of Percy's son Michael - formerly an executive with The Times - the Cudlipp newspaper dynasty is at an end.

The three brothers were born and grew up in Cardiff. Their father was a commercial traveller, selling provisions to grocers' shops, and it was Percy who set the career pattern for the other two. All three started out on the weekly Penarth News. Reg progressed from being chief reporter there to a sub-editor on the Western Mail, the Cardiff-based daily. In 1938 he moved to London as a sub-editor on the News of the World.

Conscripted into the Army during the Second World War, he rose to the rank of captain. For a time he was based in Calcutta, editing a magazine for British troops in the region. When he returned to the News of the World after demobilisation, he was appointed its New York correspondent, spending two years there on what was in effect an extended honeymoon. He was called back to London in 1948 and began his ascent of the executive ladder until Sir William Carr, the paper's proprietor, appointed him editor in 1953.

At that time the News of the World was at the peak of its success, selling a phenomenal eight million copies every Sunday - more than any other British paper before or since. Its speciality was sex scandals, a field which in those days it had almost to itself. These were not comparable with today's tales of indiscretions by the rich and famous, but tended to involve everyday people leading deceptively blameless lives. The staple cast of characters included vicars with restless hands who took an unhealthy interest in young choirboys, and prim housewives who sold favours behind the freshly painted doors of their neat semi-detached houses.

By today's standards, the tone of the reporting was excessively coy, relying on coded phrases such as: "He used certain words and made certain suggestions." In an interview with the British Journalism Review in 2002, Cudlipp recalled: "We'd have one page for the dirtiest cases of the week, although they wouldn't raise an eyebrow these days." All this was supported by serialisations of marginally risqué romantic novels.

The paper's vast circulation could not be sustained and, after Cudlipp had been in the chair for six years, it had fallen to six and a half million - still an impressive and profitable figure but not one that satisfied the proprietor. In December 1959 Cudlipp was dismissed and replaced by Stafford Somerfield, who oversaw a further fall but was still the editor when Rupert Murdoch bought the paper in 1969.

Career options for sacked editors are limited, but in 1961, at the age of 50, he was appointed Director of the Anglo-Japanese Economic Institute and editor of its quarterly journal, Japan. He took up this new challenge with tremendous enthusiasm, visiting Japan frequently. In 1982 the Japanese government rewarded his commitment by decorating him with the Order of the Sacred Treasure - the first Englishman to be so honoured.

Four years later, at the age of 75, he retired from the institute (having completed, he recorded proudly, 60 years in journalism) but he continued to take a close interest in Japan, in particular in its relations with the developing world, and wrote prolifically and authoritatively on the subject, from his West Sussex home, well into his eighties.

Michael Leapman

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