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Obituary: Ronald Cooper

Ronald Cooper (photo), who died on Monday at the age of 91, was "a whirlwind of professional energy" who set demanding standards for himself and other editors on Reuters world desks in London and Hong Kong.

In a 34-year career with Reuters he was renowned as a solid desk editor who organised editorial operations at head office and covered five Olympic Games.

Hong Kong was Cooper’s last assignment before he took early retirement in December 1983 at the age of 59. He had been sent there to organise and implement the transfer of responsibility for the general news file during the European overnight. He then headed the world desk in Hong Kong as editor-in-charge.

At the end of his 15-month temporary stint, a farewell party planned for him by Hong Kong journalists had to be cancelled when a typhoon struck.

“Maybe it was an appropriate end for someone who had been such a whirlwind of professional energy,” Ian Macdowall, then editor for Asia, Australia and New Zealand, said at the time.

“There was a muted sigh of relief when he left,” Macdowall said. “Ron was intolerant of incompetence, impatient with staff who did not live up to his own high professional standards, and no respecter of persons of whatever rank who did not back their pretensions with performance. He was a hard man to live with but, by God, he put out a good file.”

Cooper’s grounding in journalism began as a schoolboy in Walthamstow, northeast London, stringing for various newspapers.

After school he joined the British United Press agency as a copy boy. He became its youngest accredited war correspondent at the age of 19, covering merchant navy convoys to liberated parts of Europe in the closing stages of the Second World War.

Cooper joined Reuters in 1949 as a sub-editor in London. He became a chief sub, then in 1967 was appointed world services editor. He was appointed UK editor in 1973 and production editor in 1975.

In 1980 he was given the job of editorial planning manager. He organised the introduction of video editing terminals for general news units in the London editorial and masterminded the amalgamation of the economic and general newsrooms on one floor at Reuters 85 Fleet Street headquarters.

With his swan song in Hong Kong “he came back to the hard graft at the coal face of Reuters like an avenging fury,” Macdowall said. “Ron made no secret of his belief that the responsibility transfer to Hong Kong had been made too soon, but he was a professional and made things work despite all the difficulties. No one in Reuters could have done it better.” ■