Nick Herbert obituary

Other lives: Journalist for the Times who covered the Middle East before joining one of the UK’s biggest newspaper groups as editorial director

My father, Nick Herbert, Lord Hemingford, who has died aged 88, enjoyed an illustrious career as a journalist and editor.

He first worked on the sports and US diplomatic desks at Reuters before becoming assistant Washington correspondent for the Times in 1960. In that role he was on the airport tarmac in Washington when Jackie Kennedy landed with JFK’s blood still on her dress. He also attended the first Beatles concert in the US, interviewed Martin Luther King Jr and covered the Cuban missile crisis.

Afterwards he moved to Beirut as Middle East correspondent for the Times, covering the six-day war and the British withdrawal from Aden, and was then the Times’s deputy features editor until 1970, when he took over as editor of the Cambridge Evening News.

In 1974 he joined the Westminster Press newspaper group as editorial director, appointing and supporting its editors and helping to modernise its 120 titles, introducing new technology and setting up an editorial training centre in Hastings, Sussex. From 1992 until his retirement in 1995 he was the company’s deputy chief executive.

Born in Watford to Elizabeth (nee Clark) and Dennis Herbert, Nick spent a number of his early years in Uganda, where his father was headteacher at King’s college in Budo. At the age of five he travelled with his family through France as it fell to Germany, taking a boat from Marseille to Mombasa and dodging the U-boats.

When they eventually returned from Uganda to the UK, Nick attended Oundle school in Northamptonshire and then studied English at Cambridge University before setting off on his journalistic career with Reuters.

In retirement he was influential in the creation of the Society of Editors and served on the executive committee of the National Trust. He was also the trust’s regional chair in East Anglia, overseeing the revival of Houghton Mill near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, walking past it daily to collect his copy of the Guardian.

Nick’s other interests included genealogy, about which he wrote a book, Successive Journeys (2008), spilling the beans on his ancestors. In 1982 he had succeeded his father, a hereditary peer, to the Hemingford title.

Nick met Jenny Bailey at a New Year’s Eve party. They married in 1958. and had four children. Jenny died in 2018, and he was married for a second time to the novelist Jill Paton Walsh in 2020. Jill died three weeks later.

Nick then lived independently with help from family, friends and carers. He is survived by me, my sisters Libby and Alice, brother Chris, and 12 grandchildren.

Cally Herbert

The GuardianTramp

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