Published: 00:00, 21 April 2016
| Updated: 11:34, 21 April 2016
It’s the end of an era for the Mercury today as Graham Smith retires after 18 years as editor.
Graham, who has just turned 63, took over from Malcolm Mitchell in February 1998. He has overseen almost 2,000 editions of the Mercury, including the Dover Mercury, launched a month after he started, and the Sandwich edition, launched two years ago.
He says: “Doing this job has been a real pleasure and a privilege. East Kent is a fabulous community to serve, full of wonderful people.
'I have loved it here, which is why I have been here for far longer than I have in any other job in my career.' - Mr Smith
“I have loved it here, which is why I have been here for far longer than I have in any other job in my career.”
Graham started his career in 1973 on the Acton Gazette in West London, where he comes from, moving to Kent in 1977. He had spells on the Folkestone Herald and Dover Express, latterly as deputy editor, the Kentish Express and the Kent Evening Post, and was editor of the travel trade publication Travel GBI for four years. Before joining the Mercury, he was editor of the Whitstable/Herne Bay Times.
The biggest stories covered by the Mercury in Graham’s time have been Deal Town winning the FA Vase – the only Kent club to do so – in 2000, and Pfizer announcing it was pulling out of its Sandwich base in 2011.
Graham says that what has given him most pleasure was the Mercury celebrating its 150th anniversary last year.
He says: “It was such hugely significant time for the paper, and I think all Mercury staff felt lucky to be working here.
“We got lots of lovely messages of congratulations from readers, which made us realise just how much people love their Mercury.”
Other highlights have been the Mercury’s extensive coverage of the visit of the Band of HM Royal Marines for the annual concert on Walmer Green in July.
He says: “Without any doubt, it’s the best outside event in East Kent, and it’s so important to see the Royal Marines return to Deal.
“Just as the event has grown, so has our coverage. These days, 10,000 people pack the green for the show and we give it a good 12 pages of stories and photos, which our readers love.”
Graham lives in St Richard’s Road, Deal, with wife Sarah, 62, a media officer for Shepway District Council, and their two dogs. They have two grown-up daughters – Naomi, 33, who moved to Australia two years ago and works for a funeral company, and Jessica, 30, a teacher who lives just outside Swindon.
Graham is a very keen walker, which is how he plans to spend much of his retirement. He is a founder member of the White Cliffs Ramblers, is on the organising group of the White Cliffs Walking Festival, is secretary of the Kent branch of the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) and chairs the group organising the Cinque Ports 100, a 100-mile walk in which 500 people will try to walk from Hastings to Dover in 2018.
The annual ‘Hundred’ is the LDWA’s flagship event and takes place in a different part of the country each year, with walkers given 48 hours to complete a set 100-mile route.
Graham has completed eight ‘Hundreds’, and when he takes part in this year’s Dorset 100 over the May Bank Holiday weekend of April 30 to May 2, he will be trying to raise money for PSA (Prostate Cancer Support Association) Kent, which was the Mercury’s charity of the year in 2015.
Graham underwent an operation for prostate cancer at Kent and Canterbury Hospital in September. It was his second operation for cancer at the hospital, following surgery for bowel cancer in 2008.
He says: “Both my cancers were detected early, the operations went well and I’ve recovered fully. So I’ve been very, very lucky.”
He adds: “PSA Kent does a marvellous job and needs money. Ben Eddy, the surgeon at K&C who operated on me, is a tremendously proactive guy who is involved with PSA Kent.
“At one of my post-operation check-ups, he suggested my using this year’s ‘Hundred’ to raise money for PSA Kent.
“After what he’s done for me, it’s the least I can do for him.”