Editor Stephen’s Chronicle chapter fondly remembered

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TRIBUTES have been paid to former Banbridge Chronicle editor, Stephen Grimason, who passed away at the weekend.

In 1984, at just 27 years old, he was appointed editor following the retirement of the late, great Andrew Doloughan.

During his Chronicle chapter, Stephen is credited with bringing “positive change” to the paper, giving it a “modern feel” and being a “massive influence” on those he worked with in the newsroom.

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After 12 years in newspaper journalism, Stephen moved to the BBC. He went on to become BBC News NI political editor and famously broke the news of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Former editor Stephen Grimason in the Chronicle newsroom. Pic: Richard Hodgett.Former editor Stephen Grimason in the Chronicle newsroom. Pic: Richard Hodgett.
Former editor Stephen Grimason in the Chronicle newsroom. Pic: Richard Hodgett.

He later left the BBC to work for the devolved power-sharing executive that was created by the agreement, and became Stormont's director of communications - a role he held until 2016.

Stephen sadly passed away last Saturday (April 27), following a long illness. He was aged 67.

Former colleagues during his time at the Chronicle have been paying tribute and sharing their memories of a much-respected “great news guy”.

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Irish News business editor, Banbridge man Gary McDonald, recalled: “I was there when Stephen came to the Chronicle around 1984.

“He was a young man, in his 20s, and he made changes to the Chronicle and brought a more modern feel to the paper.

“I left the Chronicle to go to the Morton group in 1986, so I had over two years under Stephen and, I have to say, he had a massive influence on my early career.

“I found him to be a great news guy…a hard nosed news reporter. He was in the Chronicle for three and a half or four years. He lived in Banbridge at the time – at Huntly.

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“He brought a lot of positive change to the paper and he was generally very well thought of.

“He had a bit of a sporting background as well and he was a big follower of hockey. Banbridge were emerging as a force in hockey in all Ireland at that time, and Stephen was very keen to promote the rise of Banbridge Hockey Club.

“He taught me a lot in a short space of time and it's something that has stood me in good stead.”

Gary kept in contact with Stephen when he moved to the BBC and then to the ‘big house on the hill’.

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“He was a really good guy and I had so much time for him. He’s a huge loss for journalism.”

Karen Bushby (nee Russell) was a junior reporter at the Chronicle between 1987-88, and will always remember Stephen taking a chance on her as a “wannabe journalist”.

“He was young and fun and, under his leadership, the office was a friendly, supportive place to work,” she recalled.

“You never doubted that Stephen was the boss, but he was never intimidating. You worked hard to do the best you could in order to gain his approval and his praise – and ideally a front page by-line!

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“He was also very fair. A large part of my remit was covering sport, which would not have been my preferred area of journalism, but he always ensured I had the opportunity to cover news and feature stories too.

“Stephen could spot a good story hidden in the folds of a press release or interview and make it great.

“I think he taught me to look for the story in even the most mundane situation and to tell it in a way that would grab the reader’s attention.”

Karen – who currently works in communications with the Church of Ireland – met Stephen on a couple of occasions after she left the Chronicle. “He had achieved so much, it seemed amazing he would even remember me, but he did.

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“On one occasion he reminded me of a line I wrote in a football report about a team getting ‘a second bite at the apple of glory’ when I should have said ‘a second bite at the cherry!’ It amused him at the time and he still found it amusing!

“He was a compassionate person too. I suffered a sudden family bereavement when I was working at the Chronicle, and he remembered that and asked after my family when I spoke to him again many years later.”

Karen added: “Stephen was someone I had looked up to since I started in journalism, and I had followed his career with interest.

“During my time at the Chronicle he told me he did not have ‘a face for television,’ but he proved himself wrong there.”

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