MEDIA PERSPECTIVE: Wade's role will be to revive editorial impact at The Sun

Piers Morgan was spot-on in a prediction he made last week. Within four days the editorship of The Sun had become the first high-profile newspaper job to become available. It wasn't available for long. By the time Morgan had dispensed his vitriol on David Yelland in Tuesday's Daily Mirror; Rebekah Wade, the editor of the News of the World, had taken over at The Sun.

While it would be gratifying, but perhaps delusional, to believe that Yelland had nothing else to prove after winning Campaign's Media Achiever of the Year award last November, it is likely that Rupert Murdoch and other senior News International executives felt that it was time for a change. Yelland's editorship was characterised by a limpet-like tenacity in clinging to the core values and product. Little was altered, except an occasional upgrading of big political and financial stories. At its heart the paper remained irreverent, fun and cheeky.

Expect things to change under Wade. At the News of the World, she built a reputation for campaigning journalism (naming and shaming paedophiles in the wake of the Sarah Payne case) and, until recently, supporting investigative reporting. While it is unlikely that many Sun readers would want massive changes or a new "serious" tabloid in the style of the Daily Mirror, The Sun's first female editor has room for manoeuvre. A greater number of genuine scoops would be welcome and, if her toning down of the more titillating elements of the News of the World is anything to go by, Page 3's days as a regular feature could be numbered.

Wade's arrival at The Sun comes at an interesting time. While its circulation was up 4 per cent over the last six months of 2002 (The Daily Mirror fell 2 per cent over the same period) much of this boost was down to the savage price war with its rival. Price cuts can't last forever and along with the other tabloids, with the exception of the Daily Star, The Sun will struggle to create circulation growth without greater editorial impact.

News International will hope Wade can provide the latter but Trinity Mirror's revamp of the Daily Mirror shows that in the short term, at least, circulation growth is not a guaranteed result of an improved product.

While Wade's appointment and Yelland's retreat to the US to take a business course have stolen Trinity Mirror's thunder, it too is facing the first quarter with some new faces. The incoming chief executive, Sly Bailey, will be accompanied by Phil Hall, Morgan's replacement as editor of the News of the World in 1995, who joins as editorial development director of Trinity Mirror's national newspapers. Clearly it too feels that an increased emphasis on editorial innovation and development will bring commercial benefits. How well Morgan works with Bailey and Hall is the next big question following Yelland's departure. Whatever the outcome he will feel vindicated in outlasting his bitter rival.


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