William Thomas Stead (1849-1912)
William Stead was a pioneer of investigative journalism and one of the first people to show how the press could be used to influence public opinion and government.
Stead was born in Embleton in Northumberland on 5th July 1849, with his family later moving to Howdon. From 1870, Stead wrote for The Northern Echo newspaper in Darlington, and at 22 he was the youngest newspaper editor in the country. Taking advantage of Darlington's railway connections Stead helped increase the newspaper's distribution around the country. In 1880, Stead went to London to be assistant editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, a liberal newspaper that was a forerunner of todays London Evening Standard. He used the newspapers to promote his liberal and religious philosophies to "attack the Devil". Some thought his articles were influential in Gladstone winning the election in 1880. As editor of the Pall Mall Gazette, Stead published a number of influential campaigns, including articles in 1885 supporting a bill to raise the age of consent from 13 to 16, which became known as the "Stead Act". Stead died aboard the Titanic when it sank on 15th April 1912.