He always talked about the newspaper becoming "The Today" but James Morgan never got the chance to herald it to the turn of the 21st century.
"He was very disappointed not to have been involved with the newspaper," says former Hawke's Bay Today journalist Kate Taylor in paying tribute to former Hawke's Bay Herald-Tribune editor Morgan who died in Hastings on Thursday last week.
He was 79, succumbing to a short illness at the Mary Doyle Resthome in Havelock North on day one of the Covid-19 virus lockdown, according to a family notice.
Freelance journalist Taylor, of Takapau, describes Morgan as an editor who was a stickler for standards and loyal to his staff.
"He was old school and the media today is not," she says. "He was old school in that he worked on Fleet Street."
Taylor, a former Radio New Zealand journalist, worked for the Tribune as a reporter from 1996 until the mid-2000s after the paper had merged with the now defunct Daily Telegraph in Napier into Hawke's Bay Today.
Her husband, Thomas, managed Morgan and late wife Leith's Waipari Farm livestock in Hastings from 1994 until it was sold in 2004.
"He had interviewed the Beatles with the late David Curtis," she says of Curtis who was the then news editor. "They got held up at gunpoint in Morocco and had to sign statements that they would not report while they were there and all sorts of things."
Morgan was the "paperboy-to-editor" billboard story of the province. He had started his career at the Tribune in 1954 as a hand typographer before going on to become a linotype operator and making the transition to sub-editor, assistant editor and editor.
The former Otago Daily Times employee had received the Queen's Service Medal for services to the community. He had led the establishment of the HB Digital Archives Trust, the HB Knowledge Bank and the Friends of the Pekapeka Society.
He was an initial trustee of the HB Community Foundation and founding chairman of the Flaxmere Licensing Trust as well as the foundation director of Trust House Ltd. He was director of the Hastings-Quilin Sister City Board and national administrator of the New Zealand Sister City Board.
He was also a stage director for the Napier Operatic Society and had organised the landscaping of a garden area at Hawke's Bay Regional Hospital.
"My biggest memory of him as an editor was that if you made a mistake you went to him with your tail between your legs and notebook in hand to explain how the mistake had happened," says Taylor. She recalls having erred one day in the early days and he had backed her all the way.
For her, it was quite funny how he was her boss at work and then also at his farm, exposing strikingly different personalities. "He would walk past me [for meetings at the newspaper] and give me a raised eyebrow or wink, which would never have happened had I not known him outside of work."
A chuckling Taylor recalls gifting Morgan a copy of the Young Farmer of the Year booklet last year and, not surprisingly, he had found a mistake in it.
She says he and Leith, who had died in 2018, were part of the Taylor family even when the latter had shifted to Takapau in 2004.
Former Tribune deputy chief sub-editor Frank Long says Morgan knew the nuances of the English language very well.
"He and [the late] Lew Knowles always worked well together," says Long of Knowles who was the former assistant editor. "Ink was running through his veins."
An author/historian, Long started his career in 1973 as a general reporter doing the police and court rounds before retiring as deputy chief sub-editor when the papers had merged.
"There were a lot of changes happening while he was in the editor's chair," says the 75-year-old, from Hastings, who reflects on an era when the paper recruited "kids straight out of schools to be cub reporters and they came out bloody well, too".
Another former chief sub-editor, Mike Butler, of Hastings, says Morgan's time in England was legendary and how he was among those who had taught him the craft.
"It was the time when the Kray brothers ran the underworld [in London] and when old Dave and James were there in the swinging sixties," says Butler, adding the pair returned to run the Tribune with Knowles as the other key member.
The 68-year-old landlord, whose career spanned 1983-99, says tertiary education wasn't a major part of the template in those days.
Butler, an English literature graduate from Victoria University, says he had returned here with online journalism experience from New York to find the Tribune was still in the pen-and-paper era in 1983.
"James was a dramatic sort of a person because he was involved in theatre so he was a little bit theatrical in everything he did," he says with a laugh of what he describes as "the Herald-Tribune battlefield".
Morgan, he says, was one of the early residents of the suburb of Flaxmere and fiercely proud of it.
"He gave me the job of chief sub so I owe him that but I worked with him from 1986 to 1999 so we went through a lot of issues and I had had a lot of respect for him."
Butler says he owns the house at 511 Queen St East that Morgan grew up in.
"The large shed area at the back of that property used to be the workshop of Morgan Builders since his father was Morgan Builder and James' brother, Craig, carried the business on," he says. "The old Morgan home is now two flats with storage lock-ups at the back."