MEDIA HEADLINER: Dacre's protege brings a flair for features to the Standard - Will Veronica Wadley point the Standard in a different direction? Jeremy Lee asks

Veronica Wadley, the new editor of the Evening Standard, certainly

provokes strong emotions in those who've worked with her. "I adore her.

Her strengths are amazing, she's a marvellous inspirer and a great

enthusiast and the Standard is jolly lucky to get her," a rather

breathless Lynda Lee Potter from the Daily Mail gushes.



But another former Mail colleague, who preferred to remain anonymous,

has a very different view: "She's the archetypal media bitch. One minute

she'll make you feel like you're wrapped in honey, the next like you're

a piece of shit on the pavement."



Wadley, 49, refused to be interviewed, deferring to Lee Potter, who

acknowledged that her erstwhile colleague has a tough exterior "but is

immensely kind underneath".



Her appointment, as a replacement for the Fleet Street and Falklands

veteran Max Hastings, comes at a time when the direction that

metropolitan evening newspapers are going in seems uncertain. Although

the Standard's ABC's are pretty robust at just over 400,000, they have

fallen over the past decade. This has not given press buyers immediate

cause for concern, but has raised the question of how such evening

papers intend to evolve editorially if they are to survive in the long

term.



The emergence of online news sites and increased daytime TV news

coverage, along with the newer threat of Metro, presents a challenge to

the monopoly that used to exist for the Standard in informing readers

first. Like other papers, it is offering improved features coverage as

an extra attraction. Wadley's appointment - she is the former features

editor of The Daily Telegraph and the deputy editor (features) at the

Daily Mail - seems to confirm this strategy will continue.



Edward Lloyd Barnes, the media consultant and former Media Edge

director, says: "There's growth potential for the Standard in the 20- to

35-year-old market but the paper needs to be made more frivolous and

less worthy. It needs bite-sized digestible news and to become more

involved in what's going on in London."



One criticism levelled at Hastings was that his lifestyle, as a member

of the Countryside Alliance and the time spent at his Northamptonshire

estate, was at odds with that of his urban readers. However, there is

hope that the Benenden-educated Wadley, despite her "top drawer"

background, will be able to connect better with Londoners - particularly

women and the key youth market.



If Hastings made the paper a slightly more liberal tabloid version of

The Daily Telegraph, then the aim is that Wadley will push the paper's

editorial direction towards that of a metropolitan Daily Mail. "She's

got a coterie of good writers on her side, good contacts including those

'close to the Royals' from her days at the Telegraph and she's adept at

keeping celebrities on side," a former colleague says.



Lee Potter testifies that Wadley is hardworking and disciplined. "The

way she handles work is incredible. Her strengths are amazing, her copy

is always perfect and she manages to juggle both a family life and her

job wonderfully. The Standard is the perfect job."



Even Wadley's critics say that during her time at the Telegraph she

managed to enliven the paper's traditionally fuddy-duddy features, which

was what first endeared her to Hastings. "She's got the right

temperament to get on in the cut-and-thrust world of being a woman in

journalism - a combination of ruthlessness, charm and guile," her former

colleague adds.



Judging by her clippings, Wadley has made some enemies along the way and

a few years ago she was involved in a public spat with The Guardian's

Polly Toynbee.



After seven years with Associated, Wadley is considered very much a

company woman and there has been speculation that Associated's

editor-in-chief (and the Daily Mail editor), Paul Dacre, has put "his

woman" in place.



Time will tell whether a greater focus on features is the answer to the

long-term decline of evening newspapers. If it is then the Standard

would appear to have the right woman at the helm.



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