Obituary: Patrick Crosse
Tuesday 22 June 1993
PATRICK CROSSE was an outstanding journalist and news manager, held in high esteem by all those who worked with him during his 36 years with Reuters. He made important contributions to the development of Reuters' reputation for authoritative, unbiased and responsible news-gathering around the world and assisted many newly independent countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to establish their own news-gathering capabilities.
Crosse was brought up on a farm in South Africa and educated in England at Downside School, near Bath. He joined Reuters in 1935 at the age of 18, while staying with an uncle in India, who insisted that the first thing he had to do was to learn to type.
He rose in the ranks of the news agency, working in India and covering, from London, the main events in Europe that led to the start of the Second World War. As a war correspondent in North Africa, he was captured by the Germans and was a prisoner-of-war for two and a half years. In the camp he was involved in running a small newspaper which passed crucial information to the Allies. The Germans were duped into accepting the newspaper, which they found flattering to themselves and interesting.
After the war Crosse was hospitalised in Switzerland to recover from his wartime experiences before rejoining Reuters in the frenzy of post-war news-gathering. In 1947 he opened the Reuters office in Geneva during the critical negotiations for the transformation of the old League of Nations into the modern United Nations. This was the most significant political story of the period and his coverage of it - he once insisted that all the foreign correspondents went skiing in the Alps at the same time - ensured prominence for Reuters.
In 1949 he went to Rome as Bureau Chief, at a critical time of changes in the Vatican and political readjustment in Italy. He devoted himself to training and to the management development of correspondents who had to be encouraged to move to more senior roles in news-agency management. He recognised sooner than most that Reuters would lose the cream of its crop if management skills were not instilled in competent, but ageing, news reporters.
In Rome he met and married Jenny Nicholson, daughter of the poet Robert Graves, a journalist in her own right, whose premature death in 1964 was to deal a severe blow to him.
Although much of his work was in Europe, Patrick Crosse spent many years in other parts of the world, mainly carrying out the Reuters mandate to stimulate the development of local news organisations which could become part of an international network. As a member of the management team, he dealt at first hand with all the countries in the Middle East between 1956 and 1962; in Africa between 1959 and 1966. His last assignment for Reuters was in Latin America between 1966 and 1972 when, as Deputy General Manager, he negotiated with governments, newspaper owners and editors throughout the region to establish the regional news network Latin, which was established in 1970. Between assignments, he was in India for, among other events, the ascent of Mount Everest, with missions also to Pakistan, and in Singapore for the economic resurgence of that city state. He was a skilled negotiator, fluent in Italian, French and Spanish.
Crosse retired from Reuters in 1972 at the age of 55 because he felt he had completed the contribution for which he was particularly fitted. He decided to devote some of his remaining years to an important social cause. In 1972 he joined the International Planned Parenthood Federation, a voluntary organisation founded in 1952 as an international federation of family planning associations and largely supported by government funding, with the job as Assistant Secretary-General of guiding the development of its public information programme. He devoted himself to this cause for the next five years, recruiting talented editorial staff, imposing professional standards of communication and introducing a new magazine, People (later entitled People and the Planet). He travelled widely for IPPF, using his vast knowledge and experience of the developing countries. He retired in 1978.
Patrick Crosse was a tall, slim, good-looking man, often to be seen sporting one of his collection of walking sticks (he was particularly proud of one presented to him by Duff Cooper). He had natural gifts for design and horticulture and a love of music and the theatre. An urbane and cultured man, he exerted an enormous influence on those who were privileged to know and work with him.
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