Donald Trelford, former editor of The Observer, has died on 27 January aged 85.

The Media Society is sad to note that co founder Donald Trelford, former editor of The Observer, has died on 27 January aged 85.

From Peter York, President The Media Society

"Donald Trelford, who I knew slightly as an occasional contributor to The Observer in the later 80’s, was editor of that 232 year old newspaper for 18 years from 1975 to 1993.

Like TMS founder Harry Evans, he was a man from a working-class provincial background in a very middle-class metropolitan institution. Broadsheets then were more usually associated with people like William Rees-Mogg, father of Jacob, the editor of the Times from 1967 to 1981. But with Paisley Grammar School boy Andrew Neil editing The Sunday Times as his Big Brother competition, the world seemed to be changing. Trelford’s entry to Fleet Street came through Cambridge (Selwyn College) and local newspapers.

He originally worked for the Observer while freelancing in Africa, then in 1966 became the Observer’s deputy news editor and swiftly rose to deputy to the paper’s editor David Astor, a grandee whose family had set up the trust which owned the paper. He succeeded as editor in 1975 – still in his thirties.

He stuck it out, despite three owners and constant money troubles. He built the paper into a brand known for distinctive writers and a distinctive liberal-left worldview, and made it a very creditable competitor to the Sunday Times elephant in the market.

The Sunday Times was edited by Evans when, as friends in private, they started The Media Society together in 1973.

Evans was followed by Frank Giles in 1981 (Andrew Neil then took over in 1983). Trelford even coped with his final owner, the forceful German entrepreneur ‘Tiny’ Rowland, and kept the show on the road. "


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