Julie Leadbetter, who has died aged 55, was a pioneer. She was one of the first national newspaper production journalists trained entirely on Macs using Quark Express. She came into journalism via a job as a researcher in the Guardian library and through studying at the London College of Printing.
Her first newspaper job came with the Mirror Group in the late 'Eighties, first with The People and then with the Daily Mirror. There it quickly became apparent that her journalistic talent, her technical wizardry and, not least, her enormous sense of humour would make her an outstanding asset for newspapers at a time when New Technology Baffles Pissed Old Hack, as Private Eye used to put it.
Julie was also a committed socialist and feminist, and became an enthusiastic member of the National Union of Journalists. At the Mirror Group she was active in the struggle in the early 'Nineties against managing director David Montgomery’s (known as Rommel – Monty was our friend!) savage cost and job-cutting exercises. The fight cost her her job, and she moved in 1992 to the Mail On Sunday on a three-day contract. There her technical skills were greatly appreciated by her fellow journalists.
Her patience, her humour and her willingness to help both journalists struggling with new technology and Mac production people trying to understand the bizarre process of newspaper decision-making, made her a popular figure in the office. In 1995 she was poached by the Daily Express to become the chief sub on the Express’s city pages. She spent eight years there, first as chief sub, then as city production editor. She excelled in these jobs. She could simultaneously organise a casual subs’ rota, argue with the city editor, reorganize the printer’s schedule and redraw the Money pages spread, all the while with a phone on her shoulder, organizing her children’s dinner at home in Stamford Hill, London.
The Express was also a union battleground. The new proprietor, Richard Desmond, proved no different from the dismal sequence of under-investors who had preceded him. The blitz on jobs became an annual event and Julie duly took up a position on the chapel committee alongside mother of the chapel, Michelle Stanistreet, who was to become president and general secretary of the NUJ. Julie’s experience and intelligence ensured that she was listened to and hugely respected. Eventually the pressure became too much and Julie’s skills were unable to prevent Desmond and his henchmen destroying the last vestiges of independence of the city production department.
After a long and bitter personal battle Julie was made redundant by Desmond in May 2010. The struggle exhausted her. Her health suffered badly and she never recovered enough to find another job. She died after a lengthy illness on October 7, 2012.
Her humour, her indomitable spirit, her generosity and her total commitment to her fellow workers will be sorely missed by those who had the privilege of working alongside her. Julie Leadbetter was born on February 14, 1957. She went to Basingstoke High School for Girls and graduated in American Studies at the University of Warwick. She leaves a sister, Sue, her ex-husband, Seyhan, and two children, Adem and Sami, who are at school and college. - Ian Blunt