VINNIE Doyle once said that editing newspapers was like drinking champagne all day long. And for nearly 30 years he did just that -- edit newspapers, not drink champagne.
Outside of family life, there was little else he wanted to do beyond surrounding himself with what he described as like-minded people and producing newspapers almost on behalf of the people of Ireland.
He knew what the people of middle Ireland were thinking, sometimes even before they did, and he was unfailing in his ability to give them a product that reflected their mood.
He would say that it was the smell of the printing presses which drove him, the black ink mist that hung in the air at the headquarters of Independent Newspapers in Dublin's Middle Abbey Street.
But it was more than that.
It was also a deeply held belief that the reader of any newspaper he edited was entitled to be informed, educated and guided -- and it was his responsibility to fulfil that role.
He believed that newspapers were organic beings with personalities and lives of their own; that stories didn't just go into papers but had to be shaped and moulded and dressed and rewritten and thought about over and over before being presented to the Irish public.
To him, newspapers were part of a great media battleground on which he led his troops every day.
Fearless and decisive, he energised his writers, sub-editors and production people and instilled in them the same cause that drove him onwards.
First and foremost, Vinnie Doyle was an Editor. Probably one of the greatest of all editors, and fit to take a place in the pantheon of immense world journalists.
Beginning in the late 1980s, he transformed the Irish Independent over two-and-a-half decades into what it is today.
Along the way, he never took a back seat, attending to every single and finest strategic detail himself; never flinching from 14-hour days when they were necessary and never letting anything leave his desk that he hadn't read and approved. He wanted to edit the newspaper, not just be the Editor.
He described himself as a nuts and bolts man, hands-on and involved. Not for him the Editor's chair in a remote office, to which subordinates were called for a dressing down.
He was uncomfortable away from his newspaper and seldom appeared on radio or TV. He was, essentially, an exceptionally private man.
He used to say that editors are best heard through their own newspapers.
He had a consistent intuition for what the public wanted from a newspaper and an unerring ability to deliver it to them.
He liked them all. But he never baulked at criticising them if he felt that they were not acting in the best interests of the the country and its people.
But he was never behoven to any of them and at many lunch and dinner tables he told them in direct terms where they stood with the nation.
When it came to opposing John Bruton and his coalition government on election day, he had penned an unprecedented page-one editorial under the headline: "It's Pay Back Time". The piece rocked the government to its foundations and was blamed by the coalition for its loss of power.
He transformed the Irish Independent from its position as a mouthpiece for the Fine Gael party to a daily newspaper with sharp political comment and opinion.
He hired Conor Cruise O'Brien and winced visibly as his columnist eviscerated Charlie Haughey. But he never interfered.
He brought James Downey from the 'Irish Times' and allowed him to write exquisite leaders and analytical pieces.
He was the first Editor to introduce a news-analysis page to a daily newspaper in Ireland and in his early 60s he almost singlehandedly conceived the Weekend magazine for the Independent, a magazine that now attracts 700,000 readers every Saturday.
"I've been in this game for nearly 40 years," he told friends at the time. "I've done almost everything I can think of and some things I never thought I'd do -- and now they've asked to bring out a magazine before the end of the month. Great, isn't it?"
Colm MacGinty, the long-serving Editor of the 'Sunday World', said of him yesterday: "He was the ultimate Dublin newspaper Editor. He listened more than he talked and when he did speak, he invariably spoke wisely."
He was deeply loyal to his friends and supported them in all their endeavours -- in newspapers or in their private lives.
When many of his colleagues -- including his close friend, 'Evening Herald' Editor Niall Hanley -- died in an air crash, he spent the evening visiting the homes, wives and children of those who perished, putting a hand around a shoulder here, giving a close and uncharacteristic hug there.
Then late in the evening, he returned to the office to edit what was the most difficult newspaper ever presented to him.
We were having great difficulty thinking of a page one headline when he scribbled on a piece of paper: "Our Darkest Hour". He was much too deeply upset to speak the words.
He was one of the first editors to spot the value of celebrity. When he led the 'Herald', he never failed to carry a story and a picture of 'Dynasty' star Joan Collins and later he recorded in many, many words and pictures the life of Lady Diana.
He presided over the year of the three popes and the visit to Ireland of one.
One colleague in another newspaper said yesterday: "You always knew when a big story broke, that if you bought the Irish Independent the next morning, it was a lesson in journalism."
His favourite night at the Editor's desk was Budget night. He would whip off his Rolex watch (one of his few affectations) and personally handle almost every story in the newspaper.
After seeing his newspaper to bed, he would wait in his office until the 'Irish Press' and 'Irish Times' landed on his desk, then subject them to an intense scrutiny to ascertain if the Independent had won the night.
Once that was established, he would host a drinks party that would go on well into the early hours.
Earlier, in the middle of the chaos that a Budget night brings, he would sit with the finance correspondents and taxation experts and show them how to cut through the wall of facts and figures to deliver the message: "What does this mean to the ordinary person?"
Because it was the ordinary person who meant more to him than anything else.
He carried their interest heavily on his shoulders and produced newspapers for them, which they bought in their hundreds of thousands.
He almost saw them as an extension of his own family, his inseparable wife, Gertie, and his sons, Garret, Conor and Vincent.
In a rare interview, which he gave in 1993, he asked: "How could I have ever arrived without the stimulus of a great companion, Gertie?
"She always believed in me, was forever the support that saw me through the bad days, even though sometimes she felt our marriage was playing second fiddle to my job.
"Despite the pressure, we have survived together for 30 years, during which she became my wife, lover, my best friend."
Even in retirement, every week he would put on one of his Chester Barrie suits, his Budd double-cuffed shirt and a silk tie and share a formal dinner in one of Dublin's many restaurants with Gertie.
Ask any woman who ever met him and they would tell you of his graciousness and his gentlemanliness.
A shy and somewhat modest man, he regretted little, except not learning to drive, obliging his wife -- "La Chaffeuse", he would call her -- to bring him on small trips to town.
Let him summarise for himself: "What are the rewards for editing the biggest morning papers in the country?" he asked in an interview.
"The only real reward is the pleasure of the task itself -- that ultimately it was better to have been an Editor than not to have been one.
"You need tenacity, energy, commitment and, above all, resilience. You need to live, eat and drink newspapers all day long. When it's going right, it's like drinking champagne all day long -- the most satisfying job in the world."
To Gertie, Garret, Conor and Vincent go everybody's deepest and heartfelt sympathies.
Michael Brophy is Chief Executive, Independent News & Media (Northern Ireland).