Can big still be beautiful for the final broadsheet?

The 'Daily Telegraph' has stood by while rivals have shrunk. But the paper's editor believes it can make a virtue of its size
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The Independent Online

Whoever coined the phrase "change agenda" was clearly thinking of quality newspapers in the autumn of 2005. The autumn of 2005 is, of course, the product of the autumn of 2003, the previous historic moment in British newspaper history, when The Independent set the cat among the pigeons by going tabloid, or compact as we have learned to call it. The Times followed. Roll forward two years and we have the midway "Berliner" Guardian. Next week the Independent on Sunday becomes the first Sunday broadsheet to switch to compact.

Tomorrow the last surviving non-financial daily broadsheet relaunches itself as ... a big one. "Proud to be broadsheet, big is beautiful" is the theme, rather than "It's getting very lonely out here in the big country". For Martin Newland, who is engagingly open and uncomplicated, this is really the first chance he has had to be what he has been for two years, the editor of The Daily Telegraph. Tomorrow's edition will be emphatically his newspaper - or his train-set as he tends to call it.

There will be a new broadsheet business section and a new tabloid sports section. There will be more news pages. Those are the three core areas closest to Newland's heart, as he makes clear every time he is interviewed. His two years in the editor's chair have not been comfortable. No sooner had he sat down than the paper for which he was responsible was put up for sale. It was a long time before the Barclay brothers bought the group for £665m. There was the inevitable period of uncertainty about the new management, the equally inevitable period of management changes in the newspapers, the cuts, redundancies in editorial, and the rumours and innuendo about the security of Newland's own job.

It cannot have been pleasant for him, but he is there, he is bullish, popular with his staff, and now, at last, he is his own man with his own paper. He will, of course, be judged by its performance, as all editors are. But that is how he wants it and colleagues point to his confidence in the changes he is making and his belief in the confidence the owners have in him.

Newland talks with admiration of the years (1986 to 1996) when Max Hastings edited the Telegraph and transformed it from the colonels' paper into one that conceded that Telegraph women often had jobs. By implication or omission, Newland is less enthusiastic about the editorship of his predecessor, Charles Moore. He refers dismissively to the "Oxbridgers", and seems proud that he reads Stephen King rather than Proust. There is no doubt that the present Telegraph editor, although a public schoolboy and graduate, is not of the senior common-room caste, of which his paper has several. He is more bloke-ish. He does his karate and gets his hands dirty in the newsroom rather than enjoying arcane political debate or eagerly awaiting the Glorious Twelfth.

In his promotional interviews for the relaunched/revamped/face-lifted

broadsheet, Newland has concentrated on just three things: news, business and sport. No mention of arts and leisure and features, although over the past year, in its search for the young reader, the Telegraph has promoted music, particularly popular music, and film, offered downloads and, like its rivals, spent heavily on marketing bolt-ons such as CDs and DVDs.

Of his three big themes, Newland is clearly most committed to the new, separate broadsheet business section. He is surely right to target the business community and to feel that Telegraph business coverage has been buried at the back of the book. He has a lot of business readers, who tend not to be a natural constituency for The Guardian or Independent. Business coverage in The Times has impressed since it made the compact leap.

'New' Telegraph business is to be pacey and accessible, with a "GQ feel to it." Good news for women CEOs. Newland wants it to read more like a sports section, reporting a deal as you would a game. Bringing in Jeff Randall from the BBC will deliver that tone. Sport represents Newland's one flirtation with the compact format. He thinks downsizing will attract young readers. I am not one of those, so do not matter, but the Telegraph's great, and deserved, reputation for sports coverage is, I feel, enhanced by its superb display. Never was that more true than in the paper's coverage of the Ashes Test series. Newland seems more concerned about the fantasy footballers than the armchair sports enthusiasts who have been deeply loyal to the Telegraph.

This is all about declining sales. The Independent and The Times gained from downsizing. We do not yet know what the effect will be on The Guardian. The Telegraph, the biggest seller of the four, has been in sales decline for years, to an extent disguising that with discounts and subscriptions. The Times claims it sells more full-price copies than the Telegraph, which prints a front-page graphic every day showing that its circulation, at whatever price, exceeds that of The Times by more than 200,000. Newland says his changes are designed to keep his sale above 900,000.

The quality market has now divided. The two titles selling fewest copies, The Independent and The Guardian, are the two with the leftish outlook and the younger readers. The two largest sellers, The Telegraph and The Times, are the two with the rightish outlook, the older readers and the business readers. There are two one-on-one battles. But the Telegraph-Times battle has another competitor, the Daily Mail, and the editors of all three know it. You can see it in the news agendas; you can see it in the lifestyle features. Last Friday, The Independent and The Guardian led their front pages with God talking to George Bush about Iraq. The Telegraph, Times and Mail led on the new cervical cancer vaccine. It was indicative.

For all Newland's protestations that he is a newsman at heart, the Telegraph's news agenda and presentation has been increasingly focused on celebrity. That's not the traditional diet of Telegraph news pages. We will see how the new Telegraph defines news.

One thing hasn't changed: regard for journalistic dynasties. Stand aside the Boris diaspora. Emblazoned across the top of the front, interviewed for half a page inside, was the Telegraph's new "style columnist", Bee Shaffer. Daughter of Anna Wintour, celebrity editor of American Vogue, grand-daughter of revered Fleet Street editor Charles Wintour, niece of Guardian political writer Patrick Wintour, niece of Telegraph political writer Rachel Sylvester, she has connections. But no children.

Although the Telegraph has opted for continuing the broadsheet path - and I think it sensible - do not assume it is for ever. There will be more autumns of change. Then there is this newspaper. Those of us in the business and media department have long been compact, and find it very congenial.

Peter Cole is professor of journalism at the University of Sheffield

DIARY

Roy rocks the boat

The arrival at the new-look Telegraph of Roy Greenslade as media columnist is a cherishable moment for students of Fleet Street comings-and-goings. First, it marks the return to the Telegraph of media coverage, a year after the paper decided it had no place for it. Second, it completes what amounts to a rather neat swap. The last time the Telegraph had a media commentator the role was filled by its then editorial director Kim Fletcher, who now opines in The Guardian slot once occupied by Greenslade. Old Telegraph hands, meanwhile, view Greenslade with scepticism on account of his perceived sympathies with Irish republicanism. "The Telegraph is a historic paper of Ulster unionism," one senior comment man says. "Several of us find Greenslade's past pronouncements on republicanism very, very hard to take."

He saw it in the stars

It's always nice when an astrologer's column bites the dust and the old joke can be trotted out about the writer not seeing it coming. Latest in a distinguished line is the Sunday Telegraph's spoof column, "Psychic Smith". "Psychic" had a final column in which to say farewell, but then even that was spiked. We have got hold of an extract, which suggests why: "LIBRA (September 24 - October 23) The coincidence of Pluto's entry into Capricorn with an urgent heads of department meeting means I'm going to get sacked. The Psychster for the chop! Unthinkable, I know. But give it a fortnight and see if I'm not right."

A heartless farewell

Misgivings among some senior figures at the Daily Mail after the way it chose to report the death of Ronnie Barker last week. Not for the Mail the warm farewell that every other title went for. Instead, a front-page picture of an aged, gaunt-looking Barker, accompanied by a story angled on his son's arrest in a child pornography investigation. Ouch. "He died from a broken heart" was the headline. "Not sure where our heart was," as one insider put it.

A short shelf life

Boris Johnson is bewildered by the mixture of delight and consternation that greeted his guest "diary" in the New Statesman two weeks ago - because he's yet to read it. "The Statesman is impossible to get hold of," says The Spectator's editor. "It's obviously some kind of samizdat publication." Could he not find a copy anywhere in his constituency? His reply contains sage advice for visitors to Henley. "It doesn't seem to be a big seller in Tesco's," he warns.

Jackal and Hyde

Is Press Gazette doing owner Piers Morgan's bidding? The Grey Cardigan column in the latest issue attacks the new Guardian diary, written by Giles Foden, comparing it unfavourably with its predecessor. And who was the previous diary editor? Step forward Marina Hyde, Guardian columnist, and a special friend of Mr Morgan.

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