Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Former Belfast Telegraph journalist Alan Whitsitt dies aged 73

Award-winning ex-Tele employee was a gifted investigative reporter Alan Whitsitt at the Belfast Telegraph in 1989Alan Whitsitt, a brilliant investigative journalist who, in 1978, was chosen as National Reporter of the Year, has died. He was 73.

Alan was presented with his journalistic award by the then Labour prime minister, James Callaghan, after producing a far-reaching series on behind-the-scenes happenings at the Maze prison.

Alan, a native of Carrickfergus, Co Antrim was with the old Sunday News when he was named National Reporter of the Year — one of the few journalists outside of a national newspaper to be so honoured.

He later joined the Belfast Telegraph, where he continued to produce original copy and features over the next 20 years.

“Alan was a cranky and opinionated character, but was loved and respected by all who knew him,” said his wife, Janet, whom he met in the Belfast Telegraph, where she worked in accounts.

He is survived by Janet and their 19-year-old student daughter, Ruth, and a son and daughter from an earlier marriage.

After his time in the Belfast Telegraph, Whitsitt became head of journalism at the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education, where he educated many young reporters who are occupying senior positions today.

Alan was ahead of his time with electronics and was producing his stories on computers when colleagues were still using typewriters.

“But there was another side to my husband away from newspapers and words,” said Janet at her home in Lisburn.

“He had a passion for music and was recognised as an above-average flute player, who often gave folk sessions in the Rotterdam Bar and Kelly’s Cellars with his friend Laurie Johnston, who now lives in Blackpool.”

Former Belfast Telegraph colleague Billy Simpson said: “Alan was gifted in many ways. I remember him as a talented woodcarver. He was an interesting individual. He made a success of anything he turned his hand to — especially his writing.”

John Caruth, a former features editor of the Belfast Telegraph, added: “Alan had his own way of doing things and he was usually right.

“He had such an original mind and you could depend on him coming up with the kind of stories people wanted to read.”

Former Telegraph editor Martin Lindsay said: “He was an investigative journalist before it became fashionable in regional newspapers.

“I was Alan’s news editor at the height of the Troubles and he was an off-the-wall character, who tackled the most difficult of assignments with flair and dedication.”

No date has yet been set for the funeral, which will take place at Roselawn.

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