Female editor for 'Sunday Telegraph' after Lawson quits

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The Independent Online

The editor of The Sunday Telegraph, Dominic Lawson, stepped down yesterday after a decade at the helm of the paper, to be replaced by its first woman editor.

The editor of The Sunday Telegraph, Dominic Lawson, stepped down yesterday after a decade at the helm of the paper, to be replaced by its first woman editor.

Mr Lawson's future was thought to be secure last summer when the Barclay brothers took over the Telegraph Group from Hollinger International. There was even speculation that he might graduate to the editorship of the group's flagship, The Daily Telegraph.

But after 10 years as editor in which he established a reputation for scoops but failed to boost sales, Mr Lawson was called into the office of the Telegraph Group chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan, yesterday to learn his fate. At the same time his successor, Sarah Sands, deputy editor of the daily paper, called a meeting of Sunday Telegraph staff, many of whom were out having lunch with contacts on what is the quietest day of the week for a Sunday newspaper.

Ms Sands introduced herself to those gathered as their new editor and told them her intention was to bring a "wider range" of stories to the newspaper. Many interpreted this as a shift away from Mr Lawson's heavily political agenda to the lighter touch that Ms Sands has employed as editor of the Saturday edition of The Daily Telegraph.

The former editor of the Evening Standard's "Londoner's Diary" column said: "There are a lot of good journalists at the Sunday Telegraph and I am looking forward to the challenge."

The Hon. Dominic Ralph Campden Lawson, whose father is the former Tory chancellor Nigel Lawson, and whose sister is the television cook Nigella Lawson, became editor of The Sunday Telegraph in 1995.

He had been touted as a possible successor to the daily's editor, Martin Newland, as had Ms Sands, and yesterday's events will be a surprise to many in the newspaper world. Just 18 months ago the Telegraph Group proprietor David Barclay described Mr Lawson as "a very good editor of The Sunday Telegraph".

Mr MacLennan said yesterday: "We would like to thank Dominic for his 10-year contribution to The Sunday Telegraph during which he has made the newspaper the leading Sunday news agenda-setter. We also appreciate his achievements as editor of The Spectator. We wish him well with his future plans." He added: "Sarah will be responsible for reviewing the style and content of The Sunday Telegraph and its supplements. Alongside Martin Newland, she has done a first-class job on the daily, boosting the sales of the Saturday edition. I have no doubt she will bring a new and different approach to the Sunday market."

Mr Lawson attended Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, before joining the BBC as a researcher. He has written for the Financial Times and was editor of The Spectator from 1987 to 1990.

Boris Johnson, current editor of The Spectator, said of Mr Lawson: "He was an entirely brilliant editor when I was political columnist. He's one of the best editors of copy, if not the best, I have ever met."

At The Spectator, Mr Lawson prompted the resignation of the Tory minister Nicholas Ridley, who expressed his frank views about Germans in an interview with the magazine.

At The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Lawson put noses out of joint when he published a story that Baroness Thatcher was backing Michael Portillo against Iain Duncan Smith for the leadership of the party. More recently, it was the main outlet for stories from the camp of The Spectator's publisher, Kimberly Quinn, during the revelations of her affair with David Blunkett.

Morale dipped at the Telegraph Group earlier this year when 90 journalists lost their jobs as part of 300 redundancies to help pay for £150m new presses.

Woman who wants to challenge the 'sullen misogyny in Britain'

As the first female editor in The Sunday Telegraph's history, it is perhaps fitting that Sarah Sands is the same age as the newspaper, 44.

The boarding school- educated journalist, who moved to The Daily Telegraph from the London Evening Standard in 1996, is also, unsurprisingly, a Tory, revealing how she voted in the election.

Her promotion is not entirely unexpected as, since moving to The Telegraph to be deputy editor, she has been given increasing responsibility. Ms Sands began her career as a reporter on the Kent and Sussex Courier, aged 25.

She spent three years there before moving to the Standard, and went on to edit Londoner's Diary before rising to be an associate editor.

She is thought to be an admirer of the Daily Mail, but her approval is not unswerving. She once said: "There is a sullen misogyny towards women who do not know their place in British society, and the Daily Mail is its mouthpiece."

When she moved to The Telegraph, she admitted she was not "traditional Telegraph material" and has been described by colleagues as "right wing, but sort of social right-wing".

Ms Sands, who is thought to have had her eye on the job of editor at The Sunday Telegraph for some time, is married to the paper's editorial director, Kim Fletcher.

She is divorced from the actor Julian Sands, and has three children.

Helen McCormack