Stephen Chambers, the NCTJ’s former head of accreditation and an accomplished journalist, has lost his long battle with cancer and died peacefully at home on 13 November.
Stephen joined the NCTJ in July 2006 and was head of accreditation for two years. He continued to be actively involved with the NCTJ as a consultant until last summer when he had to step down due to ill health.
A former NCTJ trainee, Stephen began his career on the weekly Hunts Post before working for the Bristol Evening Post and the Daily Telegraph. In the late 1970s he moved into television journalism and worked for ITN, Thames Television and Anglia TV, where he presented the regional evening news programme. Before joining the NCTJ he worked for six years as a media relations and public affairs consultant in his native Northern Ireland.
Leading the tributes to Stephen, Joanne Butcher, NCTJ chief executive said:
“Stephen was a much loved member of the NCTJ team, a wonderful colleague and a friend who I will miss terribly. His distinguished track record in newspaper journalism and successful broadcasting career made him a huge asset to the NCTJ. As head of accreditation he worked closely with course leaders and editors, a role he found both intellectually stimulating and fun. He believed passionately in the importance of journalism standards and loved giving back to the cherished trade that had provided him with so much over the years.”
Other tributes to Stephen:
“Stephen was one-of-a-kind. Always professional, yet utterly charming. Principled, yet diplomatic. Completely sensible, yet had a twinkling sense of fun. And yet this does not sum him up at all – he was just a lovely man who was very kind and took time out to help while being very busy doing a very good job. Words cannot convey how much I respected him and I will always be grateful for his help and support.”
Paula O’Shea, Brighton Journalist Works
“Stephen was a real gentleman, who was never anything less than a pleasure to deal with; he had a combination of professionalism, authority and warmth which is all too rare. His support, sympathy and unfailing good humour will be missed by everyone who knew him.”
Julian Calvert, Glasgow Caledonian University
“I first met Stephen when he joined the Daily Telegraph subs 40 years ago. He soon showed he was a safe pair of hands and took on more and more responsibility. He went on to great things at ITN and then joined the Northern Ireland government press office in dangerous times. We had lunch in the Cheshire Cheese recently. He made it with the aid of a stick, his sense of humour and indomitable will. He was, above all, a firm friend in foul weather. I will miss him greatly as will others who knew him. Our sympathy and love to his family.”
John Jenkins, NCTJ examiner and former night editor of the Daily Telegraph
“Stephen was a witty, urbane and charming man who enjoyed a rich and varied career in both newspapers and television. He brought the benefit of that experience to the NCTJ at a time of great change in journalism and was able to offer wise counsel to both course leaders and editors during his time as head of accreditation. Hundreds of young journalists will, in turn, have reaped the rewards of Stephen’s heartfelt commitment to the highest standards in key skills for trainees.”
Tom Hill, Up To Speed Journalism
“Stephen Chambers will be remembered with immense respect and affection by all who care about excellence in journalism. He worked tirelessly to maintain and enhance the standards for which the NCTJ is known throughout the industry and he played a vital part in the council’s pioneering work on multimedia training. He was a brilliant and dedicated man and an excellent journalist. He made friends everywhere the relationship between free speech and democratic freedom is cherished. Many serving journalists and students completing training will remember his kindness, generosity and professionalism. He will be sorely missed.”
Tim Luckhurst, University of Kent
“Stephen was a top bloke, a real gentleman and an extremely good operator who helped drag the NCTJ into the 21st century. I had a lot of time for him.”
Dave Welford, Nottingham Trent University
“I was deeply saddened to hear the news. I first worked with Stephen when I was head of journalism at Darlington College. We worked along with colleagues to make improvements to the accreditation process of the NCTJ, which he led with great determination. Later, when I became an NCTJ board member, it became clear to me just how well-liked and respected he was among his colleagues and peers. He was deeply committed to his job, to the NCTJ and to journalism. And he was a very charming and likeable man.”
Sue Campbell, Media Messages
“I first knew Steve a generation ago at Thames News, where he was a damned good reporter and a witty and engaging colleague. We lost touch over the years, but happily bumped into each other at a Cambridge University careers evening, where Steve was batting for the NCTJ and I was doing my bit for Sky News. The intervening years melted away – helped by a glass or two of red wine – and I was so grateful that we were able to keep in touch as he battled with his illness. He was a great spirit, and he’ll be much missed.”
Rob Kirk, Sky News and BJTC member
“We were deeply sorry to hear of the loss of one of life’s true gentlemen and fellow Irishmen. We will always be indebted to the good advice and encouragement from Stephen that helped in developing our journalism programmes at the University of Ulster. He understood convergence better than most. His professionalism and can-do spirit was an inspiration to our staff when he visited. We pass on our deepest condolences to his friends and family. He is gone from your side but in your hearts forever. He will be prayed for in the University’s chapel this week and remembered in its November list of the dead. Slan agus beannacht leat.”
Colm Murphy, Head of the School of Media, Film and Journalism on behalf of the journalism team at University of Ulster
“Stephen was a journalist’s journalist. He talked straight. He asked the right questions. He was sharp-minded, professional and fair. He was our guide through NCTJ accreditation and we owed a lot to him. I don’t know how we got talking later about his fight with cancer, but his words were a personal inspiration and a support. He will not be forgotten. Stephen was a battler in a pin-stripe suit.”
John Linklater, Lecturer in Print Journalism, RGU, Aberdeen
“To know him (for a relatively short while) was to love him. He lifted the spirits when his own should have been low.He brought knowledge, experience and good judgement to his work for the NCTJ. RIP.”
Peter Cole, Sheffield University
“At Kingston, we will always remember how supportive he was to us when we were first working towards gaining accreditation for our MA Journalism. His guidance was also invaluable during the first year as we were finding our feet.”
Sara McConnell, Kingston University
“Stephen had an energetic geniality which didn’t falter even when you were giving him a hard time. Negotiations between universities and the NCTJ were and are bound to be fraught sometimes, we live in an era of continuous rapid change. He never lost his cool – or he hid it well, perhaps even more admirable. His years of negotiating his way into and through a story or an edgy scenario clearly stood him in good stead.
Last time I saw him was walking with him to the station after a re-accreditation inspection, very shortly before he stepped down from full-time work with the NCTJ. I had promised him a measure or two in The White Star, a bar owned by Stoke’s splendid Titanic brewery. He cracked a joke, something about not wanting that much ice in it, I think. But we didn’t make it to the pub. As usual I had blathered on too long in the formal meetings. I’m sure I won’t be alone in raising a glass to him now.”
John Rafferty, journalism department, Staffordshire University
“I am extremely sorry to hear about Stephen. I met him at several NCTJ workshops and he headed up the last Highbury accreditation. He was a charming gentleman. I was always impressed by his sensible but firm approach to journalism training centres and how he was able to highlight what we were doing well but point out, in a very constructive way, the direction that we needed to be headed! To be able to do this sensitively to very stressed prgramme leaders was a considerable skill indeed. The advice he gave was always worth taking on board and implementing and I thank him for that.”
Karen Nicholson, Highbury College. (May 2007 to August 2010).
“Time spent with Stephen, be it for business or for pleasure, was always time well spent. He was that wonderful combination of a great mind and great company and the world is a poorer place without him.”
Jackie Errigo, University of Brighton
“Stephen was a great supporter and confidant to us at News Associates. We had great respect for his opinion and had the good fortune to get to know him more closely over a weekend where he acted as our guide and escort on a visit to his native Northern Ireland.
He was ill at the time but still had big plans both personally and professionally and not a hint of self-pity or defeatism. He was a very nice man, a real gentleman and a proud advocate of good journalism training for the next generation.
We miss his wise words.”
Richard Parsons and James Parsons, News Associates
“I met Stephen on several accreditation visits in the North West. He was always charming, debonair and extremely witty. Although he locked horns with the odd educational establishment, he was always fair and had the interests of young journalists at heart. He was also fiercely protective of the NCTJ. He always spoke of Ireland and it is sad that he never got to spend as much time as he wanted in his beloved country.”
Lynn Worden, Deputy Editor, The Bolton News
“What a great sadness – Stephen Chambers was a true gentleman, who was respected and liked by all.”
Paul Delmar, former Head of Press Photography/Photojournalism, Norton College
A full obituary is available to download on the right. Further tributes for publication on the NCTJ’s website can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org