Rankin Armstrong is stepping down as editor of the News Letter this autumn to take early retirement after 44 years working in NI journalism.
In a statement, Rankin reflected that “it is the right time to move on to a new chapter in my life”.
I am leaving a paper that’s in good health, with a loyal print readership and a growing digital presence. These are exciting times for the business and there is a bright future ahead in the capable hands of a highly dedicated and skilled team of journalists.
During the 1970s he worked on the Armagh Guardian and the Portadown News/Craigavon Times. Rankin has worked for all three main daily papers in Belfast, spending 17 years as a sub-editor with the Belfast Telegraph and another three years across the road as chief sub-editor with the Irish News.
He was seconded to the UU for a year to coordinate the practical journalism module at the launch of the post-graduate Diploma in Newspaper Journalism. Upon joining the News Letter in July 1998 Rankin moved through senior positions at, becoming acting editor in November 2011 when Darwin Templeton left and after an exhaustive search process was appointed editor in September 2012.
Johnston Press’ strategy is “social, local, mobile”. During Rankin’s tenure at the helm of the oldest English language general daily newspaper still in circulation, the paper’s presence online and on tablets has improved. At the same time, the News Letter’s physical circulation has continued to decline, staff numbers have shrunk, and more and more management decisions have moved out of the hands of local editors.
Further changes across Johnston Press titles are expected this autumn which will once again alter editorial and production practices.
With the Belfast Telegraph leaning away from the centre ground and back towards unionism under its new editor Gail Walker, the new editor of the News Letter – a recruitment process is underway – will face plenty of challenges with fewer levers to pull.
Update – Saturday 15th – The News Letter published an article announcing Rankin’s retirement.