Remembering Steve Hewlett
March 6, 2017
Steve Hewlett, 8 August 1958 – 20 February 2017
Steve Hewlett was one of those people nobody ever forgot. At the University of Salford, where Steve was a visiting professor and Chair of the Nations and Regions Media Conference for so many years, we now find ourselves without a friend as well as an incomparably astute advisor.
Steve’s passionate interest in all things nations and regions may have been rooted in his Midlands origins but also stemmed from that open-minded and enquiring mind, the sense that anything was possible alongside the mischievous conviction that a shout-out for the underdog was no bad thing.
To the Nations and Regions Media Conference, Steve is irreplaceable and unforgettable. The question ‘Steve who?’ is unimaginable and there are plenty of good reasons why. For a start, he didn’t play the game by any smooth media rules. Steve said what he thought and was perplexed by anyone who didn’t. His rapid rise through our industry was a rare example of someone getting the gig, time and time again without actually observing any of the normal protocols that are so often tacitly agreed between those with power.
For a person with such strong opinions and so much apparent confidence, he was also remarkably forgiving. Never one to carry a grudge, he would often finish off combative conversations with colleagues and politicians alike by cheerfully chortling into his papers, glasses resting on his nose in that slightly shambolic style that everyone knew so well.
Former conference steering committee chair Sandy Ross remembers Steve keeping everyone on their toes: “You were never in doubt that Steve had been an editor of Panorama. He wanted to know why we were covering a topic, what the story was, what we would contribute that was new and how we could do it in a way that was different? In my opinion Steve was the best presenter the conference had in its 24 year history.”
Fellow committee veteran Ed Pugh agrees: “He would send messages of the latest media gossip, usually ahead of the pack, or confirmation that we were on the right track with sessions. He was an alarm bell sounding that we should be tackling a certain subject as it was likely to be the next big thing.”
Former conference organiser Katy Boulton speaks for so many when she says: “It’s unusual for writers and broadcasters like Steve to have a ‘catch-phrase’, but his oft uttered ‘briefly if you can’ probably comes as close as anything. It is a great sadness that this honest, brave, tenacious man’s time with us was briefer than it should have been.”
Despite plenty of claims to the contrary in an industry that craves plaudits, not many people are a legend in their own lifetime. Steve was a legend long before he decided heroically to share his illness with the rest of us and he stuck with that decision to the end, making many thousands of new friends across the airwaves to add to the masses of fans he already had. He was funny, bombastic, challenging, committed and kind. He will cast a long shadow over this conference for many years to come and we can only do our best to make sure we live up to his expectations.
The Nations and Regions Media Conference team