William Thomas Stead was born in Northumberland in 1849. He was educated at home by his father, a church minister before attending school in Wakefield. After leaving school, he obtained a job as a clerk in Newcastle docks. He began writing for the Northern Echo and in 1871, at the age of 22, he became editor. Under his guidance the circulation rose and it became nationally circulated. In 1880 he moved to London to take up the post of assistant editor of The Pall Mall Gazette, becoming editor 3 years later. He was a great innovator and introduced many things which we consider commonplace in newspapers today. These included the use of sub-headings, diagrams, maps and the inclusion of interviews. In 1885 he campaigned against Child prostitution and as part of his investigation ‘purchased’ a 13-year-old girl. Although his campaign was successful in getting the law changed, Stead was charged with abduction and served 3 months in prison when convicted. In 1889 he started up the ‘Review of reviews’ a monthly publication. He campaigned for a number of social changes including international peace and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1904 he founded a new publication titled ‘The Daily Paper’ but this folded after 6 weeks.
In 1912 he was aboard the Titanic when it sunk. Accounts speak of Stead helping people into lifeboats and giving up his life jacket to another passenger. The last report was of him clinging to a lifeboat but his body was never recovered and he was believed to have let go and drowned.
The monument to his life can be found on the Victoria Embankment.