Magazine article The Spectator

At the Express and the Indie, Nearly Everyone's Now in the Wrong Job

Magazine article The Spectator

At the Express and the Indie, Nearly Everyone's Now in the Wrong Job

Article excerpt

Seven weeks ago Tony O'Reilly and his Irish Independent group got complete control of the Independent. For the first time for many years the future of that paper looked relatively bright. Andrew Marr, sacked as the Independent's editor some weeks before, returned in triumph as editor-in-chief. He and Rosie Boycott, who had displaced him as editor, swore eternal love to each other at what was by all accounts a pretty nauseating press conference. They were `the dream team'.

Now Ms Boycott has gone off to edit the Express, and suddenly everything looks grim again. Can the Irish hack it? It was obvious that these two people could not operate in tandem. Each had a very different idea of the newspaper. Mr Marr overruled Ms Boycott on a number of crucial issues. He was supposed to be in charge of the comment pages but had some illdefined sovereignty over her news pages. Only two or three weeks after their press conference Ms Boycott was nosing around for new opportunities.

A search has started for another editor to work alongside Mr Marr. I would be surprised if the Irish got someone who is first class. Mr Marr's presence as editor-in-chief is bound to act as a disincentive. The notion of two editors was dreamt up by the former Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee, a non-executive editor of the Independent and a great admirer of Marr. That is how they order things in America, but the last thing the Independent needs at its time of trial is two disputatious editors with their hands jointly on the tiller.

The Irish seem inexplicably in love with Mr Marr. His title is absurdly overblown. Editors-in-chief were once grizzled veterans who would typically have edited a newspaper for ten or 20 years. Mr Marr is a 38-year-old former political columnist one of the best - who edited the Independent for a couple of years, not especially well in my opinion, before making a hash of a relaunch last September. For reasons difficult to fathom, the Irish think that he is the fountainhead of quality journalism.

Whom will they get now? Brendan Hopkins, UK managing director of Independent Newspapers plc of Ireland, speaks of making a very exciting appointment. I wonder. About four weeks ago, Jeff Randall, editor of the recently relaunched Sunday Business, was telephoned by Roy Greenslade, the Guardian's media pundit. Would he be interested in having lunch with Brendan Hopkins? It may seem a bit odd that Mr Greenslade, a commentator who frequently writes about the Independent from an apparently neutral standpoint, should be making calls on behalf of its Irish owners, but no matter.

Mr Randall and Mr Hopkins duly had lunch. Mr Randall remains unsure as to whether or not he was being sounded out for the editorship of the Independent. He has been a great success as editor of the revived Sunday Business. But that does not make him an ideal editor of the Independent. He is a former Sunday Times City editor and sports editor with robustly Thatcherite views. Although he could no doubt shake up the Independent's somewhat antibusiness business pages and breathe life into its depleted sports pages, would he feel at home, and would the readers feel at home, if he were its editor? Mr Randall says he never wanted the job. The Irish deny they ever offered it to him.

Nothing that has happened does enormous credit to their judgment. But if things are in a mess at the Independent, they are in almost as great a mess at Express newspapers, where Ms Boycott is already installed. …

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