We are very saddened to announce that Bob Jones, formerly of the Department of Journalism, passed away on 18th February 2021

By Chris Lines(Senior Communications Officer), Published

Bob Jones (pictured) was an extremely popular member of staff in City’s Department of Journalism from 1979 until 2007. His immense contribution is evidenced by how many of his former students have gone on to become leaders in their chosen journalistic fields.Bob Jones, formerly of the Department of Journalism, who passed away in February 2021

Following Bob's recent passing, many of his former colleagues and students have been sending in memories and tributes to a man who played a pivotal role in establishing City as a leader in journalism education with enviable and enduring links to real-world journalism.

Dr Paul Lashmar
Head of Department, Department of Journalism, City, University of London

"Bob Jones set City Journalism on the course that has led it be the preeminent journalism education department that it is today.

He joined City in April 1979 and finished as an Emeritus Fellow, a relationship that only came to an end in July 2007.

I only met him a few times, in 1983 and 1985, when I ran court reporting sessions for him while I was a staff member of The Observer. I was pleased to bump into him a few years back in Bridport Market in Dorset, near he and his wife’s home in Charmouth.

Back in the day he was clearly a ‘can do’ character and enthusiast who was permanently shrouded in smoke. If the Department had an ancestral staircase, Bob’s portrait would have been the first on it.

I have left it to colleagues who worked with him or were his students to speak more knowledgeably. Some of his students are now staff in the Department, such is the bond of loyalty he created.

I must confess I felt envious reading of the friendly staff sojourns with students. Covid has marked my period as Head and the idea of taking students to the theatre or even ‘a Clerkenwell leather bar’ now seem like a report from a different world.

I would like to thank Bob Jones for all he did for City Journalism and hundreds of students, many of whom are now at the top of industry."

Catherine Pepinster
City alumna, former editor of The Tablet, commentator and visiting lecturer at City

"Bob Jones was part of a triumvirate who ran City’s fledgling journalism department at the start of the 1980s. Together with Richard Redden and Henry Clothier, Bob taught the 30 postgraduate students the basics of journalism, from writing news intros to features and specialist analysis.

To the three colleagues, journalism meant newspapers and almost all the focus of the department was preparing students to join papers in the days of hot metal, folios and spikes.

Their wealth of experience and strong network of contacts on Fleet Street and beyond meant that they brought in many journalistic luminaries to the department, including Observer editor Donald Trelford, Sunday Times and Times editor Harold Evans, Washington correspondent Godfrey Hodgson and the legendary Ben Bradlee, executive editor of the Washington Post who had overseen Woodward and Bernstein’s investigation of the Watergate scandal.

That the journalism course was so enjoyable and the guest speakers such stars of the newspaper firmament was down to Bob’s easy charm. Yet he confessed to having become a journalist because he was shy; the trade forced him to mix with people and talk to them.

With his shyness came a certain self-deprecation and humility which was unwarranted, given his talents. It also gave less confident students encouragement that they too could thrive in the sometimes overwhelmingly competitive world of journalism.

– Catherine Pepinster

On occasion, Bob Jones could be disorganised and there was always a hint of near-chaos about the department. But it was yet another way that he and his colleagues prepared students for the sometimes near-anarchy of newsrooms.

After years of experience on Fleet Street, he remained full of enthusiasm for his trade, and passionate about what journalists could achieve through their work.

Above all, the lesson he taught was that being a reporter was the most enormous fun."

Professor Richard Keeble
University of Lincoln

"I have many wonderful memories of Bob as a warm friend and colleague, working alongside him at City from 1984 to 2003. I am so saddened to hear of his death.

His influence on the development of the Department of Journalism was vast – for instance, in building up its links with Fleet Street and the Washington Post, in helping to launch several prestigious programmes, in leading the shift away from the old technology to the new, computer-based journalism – and in always maintaining close ties with alumni.

Many thousands of successful journalists around the world today will remember him fondly as their inspirational teacher."

In a way, Bob never left City. His heart was always in it.

– Professor Richard Keeble

Harriett Gilbert
Writer, academic and broadcaster, particularly of arts and book programmes on the BBC World Service; former member of staff in the Department of Journalism

I worked with Bob from 1992 till 1999, helping him run the Magazine (at one time Periodical) course. He taught not only the students, but me. From him I learnt to appreciate and respect the students' variety of talents and to be interested in them as individuals with individual stories and ambitions.

He also inspired me with his enthusiasm, his passion and his willingness to go the extra mile. Besides the day-to-day lectures, classes and tutorials, we sometimes went to the theatre with the students (after which they were required to write a review); drank and ate out with them; and once, for reasons that escape me, spent an evening in a Clerkenwell leather bar with them.

Bob had a good sense of humour and a rebellious side. Although during his time shorthand was still a course requirement, he couldn't see the point of it, given the invention of the tape-recorder, and would say so often and loudly. He also crusaded to reform the QWERTY keyboard (outdated, he argued, since computer keys don't stick no matter how fast you type) and smoked in his office regardless of the ban on smoking in the building.

As time went on, Bob's hearing decreased, so that I needed to add the role of interpreter to my duties, but he was never less than an inspirational, generous and entertaining colleague. And a man of unwavering integrity besides.

Richard Evans
Director of Learning and Teaching, Department of Journalism; one of 25 students who studied under Bob in 1981 when the department was in the old Ingersoll Building on St John Street

Bob Jones gave thousands of young people their break on that course. Bob really cared about his students. Years later you’d bump into him at some event and he was genuinely pleased to see you. He knew all our names; he knew what we were doing.

Professor Michael Bromley

When I arrived first at City in September 1992, Bob was well ensconced in the Journalism department.

He was an early adopter of what we knew as 'new technology' having overseen the installation of Amstrad computers in the department. He was also a devotee of the Dvorak keyboard.

He introduced me to user groups, through which I made contact with the Journalism Education Association in Australia and journalism academics there and in the US.

Bob was generous not only with his explorations of technological innovation – this was 2-3 years before British national newspapers went online – he was as forthcoming with his experiences and knowledge of the past, particularly, for me, his insider view of The Times strike of 1978-79.

Given that dispute was about the introduction of 'new technology', Bob's continuing interest was to be expected. He was the opposite of a Luddite when so many journalists professed reluctance to accept the 'new technology'. But Bob was just generous – and principled.

We remained in touch after I left City and moved to Australia, meeting after he retired for at least one evening in the Magdala Tavern. As many journalists of his era were, he was a good companion to share time over a pint or two. His interest in football started (and until his retreat to Dorset, probably finished) with Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Sadly, when I returned to City in 2012, he was not as well as I would have wished but the old spark was still there. The Department of Journalism owes much to Bob.

In 2009, I wrote that journalism education had undergone “a quite extraordinary transformation” since the mid-1970s. Bob was one of those early contributors who drove this change.

Associate Professor Barbara Rowlands

I took over the Postgraduate Diploma in Periodical Journalism – as it was then – from Bob in 1999. Bob loved City, loved his students – and wanted the best for both.

On the first day of the academic year, he would fling them in at the deep end and make them report on a huge construction project.

He continued to challenge them throughout the year and it’s no wonder that so many of his students have been so successful.

Marcelle d'Argy Smith
Former editor of Cosmopolitan; taught on the Magazine Journalism course for many years

Bob Jones was such an endearing, eccentric man. I met him in 1991 at City. I was there to help judge the winner of the Cosmopolitan Writing Scholarship. Those were the days.

His scruffy, sepia coloured lair of a room had charts, posters, newspapers, notes and a small picture of a good-looking woman (his wife I later learned) pinned to the walls. His desk was littered with books, papers. Probably there was an ashtray. There were books, magazines on the floor. A jacket hung behind the door and a motorbike helmet occupied the chair. To me it was delightful, scatty, very male academia. There was nowhere to sit.

– Marcelle d'Argy Smith

I remember Bob's lean frame, baggy jeans. And his distracted smile before he focused on me and then on the pile of A4, 1.5-spaced sheets of students writing submissions.

He moved the helmet, said 'sit down’, made me a mug of tea in a noisy kettle and dived into the writing pile. I dived in after him.

I remember the intensity and interest of that first afternoon. It was punctuated by students popping in and being absent-mindedly waved away by a Bob who obviously wasn't upset to be disturbed.

I loved his measured comments, his thoughtful and fair assessments. We debated rather than argued. I loved that we both prized good writing. In truth I couldn't believe how well we got on. Next year he asked if I'd like to teach a Creative Non-Fiction course at City."

Anna McKane
Formerly of the Department of Journalism

"When I joined City in 1995, Bob was director of the magazine journalism diploma, and his number two was Harriett Gilbert. By around 1998 he was due to retire but was keen to still be attached to City. So, he got into discussion with the history department at Queen Mary University of London, about starting a joint BA degree in Journalism and Contemporary History (JCH as it was known).

A leading light at Queen Mary at that point was Peter (now Lord) Hennessy, and I think, if I am right about Bob's background, he would have been the contact at QM for Bob, as they may well have been colleagues together at The Times.

Bob got the degree going, and it was very successful. (Not easy, to have a degree course operating at two different universities).

I had been working on the Newspaper course with Linda Christmas but moved to teach on the JCH course in about 2000.

The degree was Bob's brainchild and was a brilliant idea: that (some of) the journalists of the future would have a thorough background in at least some aspects of recent history. Many of the alumni have very good jobs (Financial Times, BBC, The Guardian, various international charities and pressure groups).

Bob was very well loved by the students and his colleagues, and was very generous with his time in helping both students and staff.

The reputation of the QM history department grew steadily and, as they got more and more applications for their single honours History course, they wanted to slim down their joint degrees, so in 2010 they decided to close the course. This coincided with the single honours journalism course getting many more applications anyway."

Jonathan Hewett
Director of Postgraduate Journalism, Department of Journalism

"Bob was a valuable and entertaining guide when I started teaching at City. When no-one else was around, he would lower his smoke-dried voice and offer comment or background about a colleague or how things worked – usually both astute and off the record."

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