Bryant surprised by appointment

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John Bryant was described by one insider as a "rabbit caught in the headlights" following the departure of Martin Newland yesterday, which has propelled him into the acting editor's chair at The Daily Telegraph.

The quiet, affable 61-year-old, a former consultant editor at The Daily Mail, who joined the Telegraph Group as editor-in-chief last week, insisted that he had not expected such an outcome, although others saw his appointment as humiliating for Mr Newland.

Highly regarded by his peers, Mr Bryant was brought in by his former Associated Newspaper colleague Murdoch MacLennan, now chief executive at the Telegraph Group. Unlike managing director Lawrence Sear, also ex-Associated, Bryant does not have a reputation for swinging the axe. His talents lie in steering newspapers in the right direction, weeding out weak ideas and encouraging strong ones.

His first job in journalism was at The Scotsman, followed by a stint on the Edinburgh News. From there, he moved to the Mail, where he rose to become executive editor. In 1996, Bryant joined The Times as managing editor and later deputy editor. He has sat in the editor's chair twice before, at the Sunday Correspondent and The European. Following a second stint at The Times in 2001, he returned to the Mail.

Bryant is a keen marathon runner who has written a history of the London Marathon and 3:59:4, an account of Roger Bannister's quest to break the four-minute mile.