Media Perspective: Trinity Mirror pays for the editor who vied with its brand

Piers Morgan was determined not to resign as the Daily Mirror editor, clinging to the notion that he had published the truth with pictures showing supposed abuse of Iraqi prisoners. And who could blame him? He seemingly had more lives than Top Cat after surviving the City Slickers share-tipping scandal and the more recent embarrassment of ditching his "serious" news agenda and masthead changes.

But Sly Bailey, Trinity Mirror's chief executive, acted last Friday to end Morgan's near nine-year tenure at the title, a day before it was forced to carry the shaming headline "Sorry: We were hoaxed."

Morgan was playing a high-stakes game this time around, picking at the extensive wounds already inflicted on Tony Blair by his political opponents.

But while it is true that the majority of editors would have been ousted after such a mistake, I can't see how they could have caused as much damage to their title as Morgan has to the Mirror.

Some observers are upset that Morgan has been forced out. He's controversial, has a huge public profile and the Mirror won't find this free publicity in whoever happens to be his replacement, their argument runs.

Up to a point. But the impact of Morgan's reckless decision has been exaggerated by his high profile. Increasingly, even before the faked picture scandal, Morgan was becoming the story rather than the Mirror and its content. And the broadcast news bulletins, in the run-up to his sacking, showed the extent to which this had become the case: TV images of journalists outside Morgan's home desperate to know if a media celebrity was going to resign rather than focusing on the complexities of the issues involved.

The Mirror brand became synonymous with Morgan, whether it was via bombastic performances on Newsnight, Morgan's E4 show The Importance of Being Famous or his BBC1 show Tabloid Tales. It might have reaped the benefits of Morgan's fame - though it's hard to argue that he brought consistent circulation growth to the title - but it is now left to count the cost.

The story was bigger than it might have been because of Morgan's hubris and everybody in the country now knows that the Mirror has lost its editor in embarrassing circumstances. And a percentage of readers might well be confused about what the Mirror offers because it had become so entwined with Morgan's personality.

This is no bad thing when Morgan is collecting gongs for magnificent journalism such as the Mirror's infiltration of Buckingham Palace last year rather than interviewing Jordan or Victoria Beckham for TV. But now he's gone I'm left asking, what's left? It's up to Mirror Group Newspapers to let us know as forcibly as possible, but another ego-inflated editor would be hard to take.


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