Stephen Glover: Is Geordie Greig being road-tested for the editorship of the Daily Mail?
Media Studies: There are already two seasoned internal candidates for the editorship
Monday 05 March 2012
For me the most interesting development of the week was not the resignation of James Murdoch as chairman of News International. His fall from grace will be prolonged and messy, and there will be many opportunities to write about it. No, more gripping was the unexpected appointment of Geordie Greig as editor of The Mail on Sunday in place of the long-serving and redoubtable Peter Wright.
Let me say that addressing this subject is not without its challenges. In the first place I write a column for the Daily Mail. In the second Mr Greig is relinquishing the editorship of the London Evening Standard, a stablemate to The Independent, and he still has a small shareholding in the company which owns both titles. It is difficult to be entirely objective, but here goes.
Mr Greig has been accounted by most observers a successful editor of the Standard, which has greatly increased its distribution since it went free in October 2009. We can be sure he would not have left his highly-paid job at the paper, particularly a few months before an important London mayoral election, without good cause. Some think the editorship of The Mail on Sunday reason enough. Others suggest, I think rightly, that he is being "road-tested" for the editorship of The Daily Mail when the present incumbent, Paul Dacre, who is 63, decides to stand down.
A number of people at the Mail to whom I have spoken cannot believe that Mr Greig – a charming, rather laid-back Old Etonian with not very right-wing views – could plausibly be cast as editor of the robust middle market paper. They point out that there are two seasoned internal candidates: Martin Clarke, editor of the enormously successful Mail Online; and Jon Steafel, the Mail's able No 2, who would very possibly be editor of The Daily Telegraph had he not been dissuaded by Mr Dacre from accepting the deputy editorship of that paper more than six years ago. Either suitor, and particularly Mr Steafel, would have cause for complaint if the crown eventually went to Mr Greig.
Of course we can't be sure it will. That is the point of trying him out on the Mail on Sunday. Some see the hand of Viscount Rothermere, chairman of the Mail group, and even of his wife, Claudia, in the appointment. Mr Greig is certainly their friend. It is suggested they want a less strident daily newspaper, and believe he is the man to deliver it. If The Mail on Sunday thrives under his stewardship he will be papabile. It is likely he will make the Sunday title less right-wing, slightly more upmarket and somewhat better mannered. We will have to see the effect on sales, which have already been declining in a tough market.
Would Mr Greig make a good editor of The Daily Mail? It is not easy to say. (By the way, I don't know him, and have only met him once.) One worry is whether he would be on the same wavelength as Mail readers, capable of understanding their fears, hopes and preoccupations in the way Mr Dacre does.
Another worry is whether he would mind being unpopular and sometimes hated, which is the inevitable consequence of successfully editing a highly opinionated and fearless right-wing tabloid. A third is whether he would insist on the complete editorial independence granted to Mr Dacre, editor now for nearly 20 years, and to his predecessor, Sir David English, editor for 21 years.
But perhaps we are running away with ourselves. The road test has not even begun. Its outcome will be fascinating to observe – not just for those who work or write for the Mail titles but for every student of newspapers.
Here is a horse of a different colour
Much outrage greeted the revelation that Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive of News International, looked after a retired police horse named Raisa between 2008 and 2010. The arrangement may imply friendly relations with the Metropolitan Police, but it could also be adduced as evidence of Mrs Brooks's public spiritedness, though the animal is said to have been returned in worse condition than when she received it.
The greater culprit in this affair was surely David Cameron, who, after days of evasion and obfuscation, finally admitted on Friday that he had ridden Raisa "more than once" and was aware that it had been a police horse. There is no crime in that, but Mr Cameron's attempt to distance himself from Brooks does him no credit.
Interestingly, it was The Daily Telegraph (in the shape of its senior political correspondent, Christopher Hope) and The Daily Mail which led the charge against Mr Cameron after the story had first surfaced in the London Evening Standard. Neither title harbours much love for the Tory leader, and neither is inhibited by right-wing loyalties from portraying him in a bad light. I suspect there is much more to come out about David Cameron's foolishly close relations with Mrs Brooks, and I won't be surprised if I read it in the Mail or Telegraph first.
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