The editor of The Daily Telegraph, Martin Newland, resigned yesterday after only two years in the post, just days after a rival newspaperman was promoted above him. His departure follows the appointment last week of the former Daily Mail executive John Bryant as editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph. Bryant will step in as acting editor until a successor is appointed.
Newland is believed to have felt his position to be untenable, following the arrival of Bryant, the latest in a string of executives poached from the Mail's publisher, Associated Newspapers. Telegraph Group's chief executive, Murdoch MacLennan, and managing editor, Lawrence Sear, are both former Associated executives. It is believed Newland sought legal advice on whether he would have a case for constructive dismissal following Bryant's appointment.
Appointed in the last days of Lord Black of Crossharbour's ownership of the Telegraph titles, Newland steered the newspaper through its sale to the Barclay Brothers. Last month he oversaw a redesign of the Telegraph, which, along with The Financial Times, is the only quality newspaper not to have downsized, but the move failed to boost circulation, which dipped by 0.3 per cent in October. The revamp was accompanied by the hiring of several high-profile journalists, including former BBC business editor Jeff Randall, ex-Sunday Times business editor Will Lewis and media columnist Roy Greenslade. Simon Heffer, who also joined from the Mail, is thought to have been brought in over Newland's head.
The favourite to step into the editor's shoes is Lewis, but owing to his lack of experience editing a national newspaper, it is thought that, were he to get the post, he would be eased in gently, with Bryant holding the fort in the short term. Randall is not thought to want to take on the stresses and strains of editing a daily newspaper.
Another name in the frame is the Mail executive Jon Steafel, whom Mr MacLennan recently tried to poach to become deputy editor. When Steafel opted to stay at the Mail, where he was promoted to joint deputy editor, the post was instead split between Lewis and Neil Darbyshire, but the job of editor might prove more tempting.
Thanking Newland for his contribution to the Telegraph, Mr MacLennan said: "Martin Newland has guided The Daily Telegraph with distinction through a difficult period, especially during the sale of the company by Lord Black. He has attracted a team of brilliant writers, pioneered the new business and sports sections and overseen the redesign and modernisation of the newspaper. Both our proprietors and I had hoped to work with him for the foreseeable future, so it is with regret to us all that he has decided to move on."
Newland said yesterday: "Editing the Daily Telegraph has been a privilege. It has been a marvellous experience working with so many great journalists and building the newspaper's reputation as the UK's market leader. I would like to thank Sir David and Frederick Barclay and Aidan Barclay for their kindness and good wishes." Those who know Newland said that it "spoke volumes" that he had omitted to thank Mr MacLennan.
Newland announced he was leaving at the Telegraph's morning news conference. He did not address journalists at the newspaper, who were said to be "subdued". Insiders said that Bryant, the former deputy editor of The Times, was genuinely surprised by the turn of events. Senior sources suggested that Newland had been "oversensitive" about recent changes and that his departure had been unnecessarily hasty.
Newland, a former deputy editor of the Canadian National Post, began his career as a reporter on The Catholic Herald, before joining the Telegraph, where he worked for several years on the news desk before leaving for Canada.
Kim Fletcher, former editorial director of the Telegraph Group, who worked alongside Newland, described him as "a great, vigorous enthusiast - very warm, very straight with people, very approachable".