NEW YEAR is a time for reflection as well as anticipation, and this week I’ve had a particular reason to look back.

Over the course of a working lifetime in journalism I’ve met many memorable, larger-than-life characters.

I’m talking about colleagues, not celebrity interviewees, because for most of that time I’ve worked behind the scenes, on the editing side of the business.

I remember them for all sorts of reasons – as legendary boozers, hugely entertaining raconteurs, or simply as gifted writers whose way with words left me lost in admiration.

Some were household names in their own right, columnists and TV presenters. Even an astrologer, who occasionally descended on the office to waft about in a kaftan strewn with stars and rainbows, which was a pretty mind-boggling look for a bloke in the sharp, shoulder-padded Eighties.

Others, though - a select few - linger in the memory for no better reason than that they were thoroughly good eggs. Genuine, kind, ordinary chaps or chapesses in a world with more than its fair share of chancers and self-promoters. Workmates you could rely on.

They’re the ones I recall with real fondness and respect. And such a one was David Vallis, the former Salisbury Journal news editor who died the day before Christmas Eve.

I was no longer in regular touch with him. I didn’t even know he had cancer. But I cried when I heard he was gone.

He was old school. Gentlemanly, astute, fair-minded, and absolutely professional. A man of strong views who never let them get in the way of producing balanced, accurate news reports.

When I joined the Journal in my mid-fifties all I wanted to do was get back to local paper reporting, which was where I’d had the most fun in my career.

I found him an encouraging, generous boss who was happy to let me get on with the job.

His own career began and ended with the Journal, via a lengthy spell with what is now the Daily Echo.

I’ll never forget the pep-talk he gave to the assembled newsroom in Rollestone Street on his last day. ‘Keep your standards high and don’t let the bastards grind you down’ just about summed it up.

These days, our industry has been devastated by the internet, with well-paid jobs and proper training opportunities disappearing faster than Donald Trump’s White House advisers.

Democracy in Britain is the poorer for it.

Daily scorn is poured on all the media indiscriminately because of sensationalist ‘fake news’ online and the hounding by national tabloids of hapless souls whose turn it is for 15 minutes of notoriety. The bread-and-butter subject matter of local journalism could seem mundane in comparison.

But in 2018, when it was needed, the Journal rose to the challenge of representing a city that became the unenviable focus of the world.

A trusted local press matters more than ever when so much of our system is crumbling, when authority can’t be trusted.

A paper such as the Journal should be a welcoming forum for every shade of opinion, and a campaigning force on behalf of the community.

Dave Vallis understood that, and was passionate about it.