An editor who had a wide range of interests and far reaching influence

Morning View
Morning View

The range of people who have paid tribute to Austin Hunter after his tragic death on Saturday illustrates how far reaching his influence was, and how wide his interests were.

The warmth of those tributes, from First Minister Arlene Foster down, is an indication of how well liked Mr Hunter, 64, was.

To this newspaper, of course, he will always be remembered for his time at the helm of the oldest English language daily newspaper in the world.

In the early decades of the Belfast News Letter, founded in 1737, there was no such thing as an editor.

But as the paper expanded and became more complex in the 1800s it needed such a leader, and Mr Hunter was always proud to have been one of the men who have held that title, which he did between 2004 and 2006.

“I have been fortunate to have worked in newspapers, radio, television and public relations but nothing compares to being the editor of the News Letter,” he wrote in 2012 on our 275th anniversary.

Mr Hunter was much loved by his staff, and he bolstered the fortunes of the paper which, like all partly print titles, has faced challenges in the digital age.

Mr Hunter was very much a people person, maintaining his approachability with an open door policy to staff.

His retirement was due to health reasons, but when he recovered he was back contributing to our pages as a hockey correspondent and occasional author of this very column.

Only weeks ago Austin Hunter visited both the News Letter’s Belfast and Portadown offices, full of good humour.

He was proud of all the institutions that he had worked for or with – the BBC, the News Letter, the PSNI, the loyal institutions, sporting world and others.

And his enthusiasm, as the warm comments show, was returned in kind.