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Tribute to Jim Brennan

© Derby Telegraph

2 January 2018

A trailblazer in journalism training and an NUJ Member of Honour, Jim Brennan, has died aged 96.

Jim was the first full-time lecturer in the early days of the National Council for the Training of Journalists in the early 1960s, setting up a course at Harlow, Essex, where he was the supervisor.

His career began at the Derby Evening Telegraph in 1939, but was interrupted by the Second World War, with him serving as a paratrooper. After being demobbed he returned to newspapers, working in Fleet Street as a reporter for The People.

Jim was a pioneer in the early days of training courses for journalists. He was involved from the creation of the NCTJ, first as a member of the network of volunteers from the NUJ and the Newspaper Society in running day release and weekend courses for trainees.

By the time of his appointment at Harlow he had worked on three evening newspapers and was assistant editor of the Nottingham Post, where he had worked for 10 years. The first course began in September 1964 with part-time tutors, with Jim joining two months later full-time.

While there he also worked as a casual sub-editor at The Times, full-time during term holidays, which enabled him to enhance his experience with the trainees. Jim later took the reins of training at Sheffield polytechnic before moving to Richmond College.

Jim also worked at The Guardian in Manchester, and as a radio producer for the BBC in the North-West, and also spent some time training young journalists in China. He later became a strong supporter of links between his home county of Derbyshire and China.

He wrote for the now defunct Derby Trader, one of the early free newspapers, and later penned a weekly political column for the Derby Evening Telegraph. He was often on the press bench at the Council House, where younger journalists would check with him because of his excellent shorthand – he was a pioneer of the introduction of Teeline into the national training programme. He also officiated at NCTJ exams.

Past an age when most people have retired, he continued to freelance and used his skills via the new medium of the internet to launch what he called 'news-viewsletters' starting with the weekly Derby Guardian, then the Derbyshire Guardian and other titles for Leicester, Lincoln, and Nottingham.

In his mid-80s he set up an electronic newsletter targeting over-80s silver surfers. He also lobbied major political parties on behalf of the National Pensioner Convention.

He was chair of Derby and Burton NUJ branch for a number of years.

Current chair Kevin Palmer said: “Jim was dedicated to journalism and training and helping young reporters for many years. He continued working and campaigning almost until the age of 90, a remarkable feat. He was also a strong NUJ member. He was a mainstay of the branch and with other officers made sure that it met regularly when some branches were dormant or ceased to function. He often commented about how they had kept the union flag flying in Derby and Burton.

Jim's wife of 75 years, Mary, died in 2014. He is survived by a son and daughter, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Tags: , Jim Brennan, obituary, National Council for the Training of Journalists, Derby Evening Telegraph