Tribute to former News Letter reporter Joe Oliver as “one of the newspaper characters” of the day


Former News Letter reporter Joe Oliver

Joe Oliver was an industry correspondent and forensic reporter for the News Letter in the 1970s and early 1980s before moving to the now defunct Sunday News and then to independent journalism – at one point forming a news agency service with two other well-known journalists.

There is a strong journalistic tradition in the Oliver family, with Joe’s father William helping to set up the first official press offices of the then Stormont government, while his brother Billy also had a distinguished career as reporter in Belfast.

Billy continued his career in journalism after emigrating to Canada.

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From his early days working for provincial newspapers, Joe eventually found his way to Belfast and joined the News Letter staff in the late 1960s.

He also spent 11 years as an associate of the Ulster Press Agency (UPA) with Jim McDowell, who would go on to become editor-in-chief of Sunday World, and Brian Rowan, who is best known for his work as a correspondent for security with BBC Northern. Ireland.

As the only news agency in Belfast at the time, Joe was involved in daily coverage of a wide range of news, his work reaching the UK and international media as well as all local media.

Joe’s wife, Marie, was then office manager of the news agency service.

A Belfast Telegraph obituary described him as a “knowledgeable and enthusiastic sports journalist and sports broadcaster” who covered live football for Downtown Radio and other media, as well as a “very competent tennis player” who reported on boxing and tennis.

Jim McDowell, a close friend who first worked with Joe on the News Letter in 1969, paid his own tribute.

He said: “As a journalist he has never shied away from controversy, whether covering the power politics of Rev. Ian Paisley in Stormont or the sometimes petty and partisan politics at Town Hall. from Belfast.

“He was one of the old-school journalists who learned their trade ‘on the job’. He was also one of the characters in the city newspapers and, like many of us, he not only “lived” his work, but he “loved” it. Outside of his family, it was his life.

“He was a man who valued the camaraderie of his fellow journalists, whether in the melting pot of meeting press deadlines, or in the quiet of a local pub afterwards.

“His legacy will live on in the many stories he filed which are now recorded in the archives of many newspapers.”

Mr. Oliver is survived by his wife Marie, daughter Lisa, son Mark and a wider family circle.

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