Google the name Colin Myler and you won’t find much beyond something along the lines of ‘News of the World editor Andy Coulson, 38, has quit and will be replaced by former Sunday Mirror editor. . .’ Oh, there’s a potted biog, some one-sided account of a punch-up with an Aussie war correspondent in a New York nightclub and a snide little gossip story in a New York paper – the Daily News – which rivals Murdoch’s Post where Myler has been number two for five years.
Aside from that, there’s very little detail on the doings and dealings of Colin ‘Makepeace Thackeray’Myler (I even had to make the middle names up).
He’s that sort of guy: tough, talented and ambitious, but determinedly low profile, despite a red-top tyro’s tendency to get himself into trouble.
He’ll soon be in contention – along with Derek Jameson and Bob Edwards – for Man With the Most Editorships Under His Belt: so far he’s collected a Daily Mirror, two Sunday Mirrors and now the NoW. On the way he’s occupied senior posts at the People, Today and the New York Post.
Not bad for a rugby league-loving lad from Widnes . . .
Hard knocks He’s had some hard knocks, of course: his worst moment came when he was required to fall on his sword at the Sunday Mirror in 2001 (second time around) after publishing the infamous article about two Leeds United footballers facing an assault charge. The court case was abandoned at a cost of £8m, his paper had to cough up a £75,000 fine and Trinity Mirror was estimated by The Times to have had £40m hacked off its stock value as jittery investors dumped shares.
After that little lot, walking the plank must have seemed like a drop in the ocean.
His first go-around on the Sunday Mirror in the early ’90s had also given him sweaty palms: he bought and published the ‘Princess Di in the Gym’pictures which I then republished in the Daily Mirror, deflecting some of the criticism from Colin (that was CEO David Montgomery’s idea) and landing me for all time with the title ‘The Editor Who . . .’You’d think that my unselfishness in throwing myself in front of the on rushing Tube train of public opinion would have earned his undying gratitude, but no . . . two years later he replaced me as Daily Mirror editor, and I went upstairs to become editorial director.
Myler’s brief was a typical one from Monty: get tough with the staff and put on sales. He managed the first, but the Big Ask – as it has been for editors before and since – was beyond him. Sales fell and so did Colin.
Roots Shocked by his demise, Myler turned his back on Fleet Street and went back to his roots. He’s a devout Catholic (unless the Sacred Heart pin badge he always wore in his lapel denoted a blood donation, possibly in search of an exclusive!) with a close and loving family. And he’s not just northern; he’s a Myler from famous Widnes rugby league stock.
He spent two years as chief executive of the northern rugby code’s Super League, which would have inevitably embroiled him in conversation and association with the game’s saviours and televisers, Sky Sports . . . owned, of course, by Rupert Murdoch, who picked him up in the outfield and drop-kicked him into a try-scoring position in Manhattan where he watched. And waited.
Triumph Now the Comeback Kid is back again, a bitter-sweet triumph for the NoW’s new boss: sweet because it puts him back in a job he’s made for; bitter, because it was a gloating News of the World that kicked Col in the goolies when he dropped his Leeds United court case clanger.
News International will be glad to get him back. Executive chairman Les Hinton – an old pal of Myler’s since their Sun reporting days together – has already rejoiced in Colin’s ‘outstanding record as a newspaper executive”. Megaboss Murdoch will be quietly gleeful that his five-year-old investment in ‘parking’the Widnes whizzkid in New York for just such an eventuality has paid off.
When I dined with him in New York recently – a far cry from the sirloin and chips pub lunches we used to demolish with Bridget Rowe in the Smithfield on our regular Mirror Group plotting sessions – Myler seemed happy with his lot. But as he and I agreed, Manhattan’s a helluva town, but it ain’t Fleet Street.
He returns to face a formidable task: adding circulation in the current across-the-board tabloid decline while rebuilding staff morale and reader trust in a newspaper that has suffered a crushing blow to its reputation. All this at a time when the paper’s own shoddy behaviour has stirred the political pot to boiling point.
It’s all yours, Mr Myler . . .
David Banks is a broadcaster, columnist and former editor of the Daily Mirror (1992-94)