Media: Dacre starts to reveal his hand at Associated

Who is Peter Wright? A Dacre man, that's who. By Darius Sanai
HE IS the mystery man of British journalism. Two and a quarter million people will read his newspaper this Sunday, yet few in the newspaper industry (and even fewer of his readers) know much about Peter Wright.

At the weekend, Mr Wright was appointed as editor of the Mail on Sunday, Britain's pre-eminent mid-market Sunday tabloid. Though regular readers of the paper, who tend to be pleasant, suburban types with the requisite amount of children, pets, people-carriers and lawn acreage, will probably not think they needed a new editor, the appointment was no surprise to insiders at Associated Newspapers.

Mr Wright was, until last week, deputy editor of the Daily Mail, a faithful and hugely industrious number two (and close friend) to the newspaper's editor, Paul Dacre. When Mr Dacre was promoted to editor-in-chief of the newspaper group, following the death of Sir David English earlier this year, the writing was on the wall.

"He has been Paul Dacre's bagman for all of this decade," said one executive yesterday. "He'll create the Sunday in Paul's image."

Not that anyone expects great changes at the title, which is outselling its one-time rival, The Express on Sunday, by more than a million copies a week.

A quiet but intellectually-rigorous man, Mr Wright, 45, started at the Daily Mail as a reporter, nearly 20 years ago, and followed Mr Dacre up the career ladder: he gained the respect of his peers during a successful stewardship of the "Femail" section. Known as a "safe pair of hands", he has only had one noteworthy blip during his career, when he decided, as night foreign editor on the day of the Chernobyl reactor meltdown in 1986, that it was "not a story".

Those who know Mr Wright personally say his natural conservatism might stop him from making any major changes at the title; but senior management at Associated is known to be concerned that the paper was stagnating under the safe, but dull, stewardship of the previous editor, Jonathan Holborow, who has taken early retirement.

Solid and consistent, the paper has lacked flair and chutzpah - not words which sit consistently with Mr Wright's image, but something Mr Dacre may inject from his position on high.

"Expect a lot more women's stuff, much stronger features and comment, and a more lively read," one insider said.

By common consent, Mr Holborow's six-year reign at the Mail on Sunday failed to take full advantage of the weakness of the Sunday Express, or to tackle head-on The Sunday Times, which has plunged into the middle- market.

"The Express group has been handing the Mail titles readers on a plate for years," said Sue Douglas, a former Sunday Express editor who has worked with Mr Dacre and Mr Wright on the Daily Mail. "Peter should be able to take advantage of the situation."