William Thomas Stead was an English newspaper editor who, as a pioneer of investigative journalism, became a controversial figure of the Victorian era. Steads new journalism paved the way for the tabloid in Great Britain. He was influential in demonstrating how the press could be used to public opinion and government policy. He was also known for his reportage on child welfare. Stead died aboard the RMS Titanic in its sinking, and was considered to be one of the most famous Englishmen on board. He was born in Embleton, Northumberland, the son of a Congregational minister, the Rev William Stead and Isabella, a year later the family moved to Howdon on the River Tyne, where his younger brother, Francis Herbert Stead, was born. It was Steads mother who perhaps had the most lasting influence on her sons career, from 1862 he attended Silcoates School in Wakefield, until 1864, when he was apprenticed to a merchants office on the Quayside in Newcastle upon Tyne where he became a clerk. From 1870, Stead contributed articles to the fledgling liberal Darlington newspaper The Northern Echo, at the time, Stead at just 22, was the youngest newspaper editor in the country. Stead used Darlingtons excellent railway connections to his advantage, increasing the distribution to national levels. Stead was always guided by a mission, influenced by his faith. In 1873, he married his sweetheart, Emma Lucy Wilson. In 1876, Stead joined a campaign to repeal the Contagious Diseases Act, the law was repealed in 1886. He gained notoriety in 1876 for his coverage of the Bulgarian atrocities agitation and he is also credited as a major factor in helping Gladstone win an overwhelming majority in the 1880 general election. In 1880, Stead went to London to be assistant editor of the Liberal Pall Mall Gazette, when its editor, John Morley, was elected to Parliament, Stead took over the role. When Morley was made Secretary of State for Ireland, Gladstone asked the new cabinet minister if he were confident that he could deal with that most distressful country, Morley replied that, if he could manage Stead, he could manage anything. Over the next seven years Stead would develop what Matthew Arnold dubbed The New Journalism and he made a feature of the Pall Mall extras, and his enterprise and originality exercised a potent influence on contemporary journalism and politics. Steads first sensational campaign was based on a Nonconformist pamphlet, The Bitter Cry of Outcast London and his lurid stories of squalid life in the slums had a wholly beneficial effect on the capital. A Royal Commission recommended that the government should clear the slums and he also introduced the interview, creating a new dimension in British journalism when he interviewed General Gordon in 1884
W. T. Stead as a child.
This map by Stead W. T presents 46 saloons, 37 "houses of ill-fame," and 11 pawnbrokers in 1894.