Craig Orr

From The Guardian, 1st December, 2008

Craig Orr, who has died aged 71, was once dubbed "the quiet man of Fleet Street". He held senior editorial positions with two of Britain's major newspaper publishing groups, and was widely regarded as a first-class journalist who could have gone even further had he not been quite so modest. A colleague described him as "a clear-thinking strategist and one of the nicest men you could meet".

An only child, Craig was born just outside Aberdeen and decided on a career in journalism after graduating from the city's university (in French and economics). He was quoted as saying that, if he failed, "he could always become a teacher".

His first job was in Blackburn where he was one of a team of young reporters covering the Accrington district for the Evening Telegraph with offices next door to the Blockade pub. Although he joined in the smoking, the drinking and the regular night-time closing of the pub with a chorus of Peggy Lee's version of The Party's Over, Craig was ever attentive to his wife Erica.

His duties included covering Accrington Stanley FC's matches and he also freelanced for the BBC's local early morning current affairs programme. This steady, dependable, slow-talking Scot soon became a sight of the town, with his pork-pie hat and goatee beard.

In the early 1960s, like so many Scots, he decided it was time to head for Fleet Street. First he joined the Guardian as a news sub-editor before moving to the London Evening News, at the time one of the world's biggest selling evening newspapers. He stayed for more than 10 years, being appointed an assistant editor and then sports editor. The News lost its bitter battle with the Express-owned Evening Standard and, in 1980, was closed down by its publishers, Associated Newspapers, who negotiated a half-interest in the Standard. Craig was next with the Daily Express and went on to become night editor in London before moving to Manchester as northern editor looking after the Scottish editions. As a proud Scot, he always preferred calling himself the editor of the Scottish Daily Express.

In the early 80s, it was back to London, where he became a commissioning editor on You magazine, distributed weekly with the Mail on Sunday but rapidly earning plaudits as a free-thinking, off-the-wall publication distinctive in its own right under John Leese. In 1986 Leese was appointed editor of the Evening Standard, by then wholly owned by Associated, and he appointed Craig its managing editor.

Rupert Murdoch and new technology had broken the domination of the unions by then and by the 1990s newspapers were leaving Fleet Street behind and moving to new homes. Craig was a major force in organising the Standard's switch to a computerised editorial system and its historic move to its present base in Kensington. He was able to boast that the paper's move was made without the loss of one edition.

His first marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, Victoria Summerley, who is executive editor (weekend) of the Independent, and two children by his first marriage, Gavin and Kirsten.