MEDIA: HEADLINER: Editor looks to bring sense of fun to new Express operation

The Express has plans to be humorous and clever, writes Gordon MacMillan.

Richard Addis, who last week added the editorship of the Sunday Express to his existing role as editor of the Daily Express, is a subtle man; cannily so, humorously so and authoritatively so.

Once, while working on the Londoner’s Diary at the Evening Standard,

Addis was summoned into the editor’s office and shown a front-page story in the Daily Mirror. It concerned the lunchtime activities of several

Conservative Euro MPs. A tale of sleaze, and a perfect Diary story.

It was, he was told, the kind of story the Diary should be carrying.

Why, he was asked, had it been missed? Humbly, Addis said he would look into the matter, while omitting to tell the editor that the story had

indeed appeared as the lead Diary article in the previous day’s edition.

On hearing of this, his then Diary colleague, the former Campaign

editor, Mark Jones, was furious.

"It meant the editor was not reading the paper. I asked Richard why he

hadn’t spoken up and he said it would have been far too embarrassing for the editor. Subtle," Jones says.

Jones appears to be right. It would have been easy to blurt it out at

such a moment, but surely more enjoyable to say nothing and smile later.

But subtlety is probably a quality that, right now, is lost on the 85 or

so journalists on the roller-coaster that is Express Newspapers who have

found themselves transformed into job-seekers.

Nine months ago, when Addis joined the Daily Express as editor, he gave

himself two to three years to reinvigorate the paper. Since then, he’s

been both probing and exploratory. Yes, changes have been made, but they are what Addis describes as small and essential changes.

He admits this is partly because, up until now, he has only been

responsible for half of the paper. Now it is a seven-day operation with

Addis at the helm (Campaign, last week). ‘Suddenly the whole of the

Express is in my hands. I know that the Sunday newspaper is not, in

fact, 50 per cent but, if you have a big Sunday paper, it has a huge

impact of its own. It is 50 per cent, probably not less,’ he comments.

The Sunday paper will change, with a single Sunday magazine already in

the pipeline. However, the daily will be the main focus, particularly on

the design side, according to Addis. It needs to be clearer and more

modern, he says.

In January, Addis instigated - as a grand gesture to mark his arrival -

a change a day at the Daily Express. He has no plans to set off on a

brash expedition of reinvention that would result in the paper

forfeiting all that it represents (although something is needed as its

circulation, at 1.22 million in May, continues to fall) and relaunch as

the New Daily Express. No, that isn’t Addis’s style. He indicates a feel

for the rhythmical rather than the extravagant, which could mean a more

measured approach.

"We will not change it overnight. It will be gradual - giving readers a

chance to grow into the changes. We had a change-a-day for the month of January and then we stopped. Too much change is upsetting to our

readers," he says.

Addis doesn’t want to upset Express readers because he knows what they will do - go away and read something else. He wants to treat them with respect and to treat them to something better.

"A serious, fun paper would be the slogan. It would be an anti-pomposity

slogan for a paper that is open-minded, can laugh at itself, is excited

and has a sense of humour," he explains. In short, he wants to amuse us

all. It’s a neat trick if you can pull it off.

Stephen Foster, the former Marketing Week editor, says of Addis: ‘He is

driven to inject wit and humour. He believes newspapers don’t need to

talk down to people. The more intelligent the writing, the better. He

made his reputation on that basis at the Standard.’

Yes, the business of creating fun is a serious matter to Addis. The

first change he introduced at the Express was the reintroduction of the

William Hickey and Beachcomber columns. Even Peter Tory seems to have more fizz these days.

But there is an inherent problem with the Express’s vision. In wanting

to make its readers think and laugh, it needs to lie on the

psychoanalyst’s couch, deal with its troubled past and secure its


"When you are secure and have an identity, you can laugh at yourself and the world. The same is true of newspapers. If the Express had a secure image of itself, it would be able to laugh. Newspapers can easily become po-faced," Addis says.

The Addis file

1980 Marketing Week, reporter

1982 Based in Rome, either freelancing or unemployed

1985 Evening Standard, reporter on Londoner’s Diary

1987 Evening Standard, assistant editor (features)

1989 Sunday Telegraph, deputy editor

1991 Daily Mail, executive editor

1995 Daily Express, editor

1996 Daily and Sunday Express, editor


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