By Dominic Ponsford
Paul Field’s National Enquirer American dream has turned to a nightmare for the 22 British journalists he recruited to relaunch the paper last April.
Press Gazette has learned that nearly all are facing a return to the UK with $5,000 (£2,800) pay-offs as stipulated by their contracts. Because their visas were dependent on them working at National Enquirer, it is believed that few will be able to stay in the US — despite being locked into property contracts and other commitments in New York.
According to a well-placed source, some of the Enquirer journalists were on J1 student visas — rather than full working visas — which will further complicate their chances of getting other work in the US.
Former Sun associate editor Field, 34, was only halfway through a three-year contract when he was suddenly sacked earlier this month.
The extent to which this came as a shock to him was confirmed by an insider, who said that just weeks earlier he had been queuing in the snow to get his child into a popular New York school.
It is understood that some established National Enquirer journalists who were let go to make way for the British invasion last year are now returning to the supermarket weekly.
One well-placed US source said: "It’s almost like a social experiment which didn’t work. It’s a case of out with the old and in with the older.
"Paul Field is probably highly embarrassed about the whole thing. He enticed people away from family, friends and good jobs with promises of riches and making a difference to one paper and it didn’t work."
Field was appointed by Enquirer owner American Media in October 2004 and embarked on a hiring spree of tabloid talent.
In April last year, the Enquirer was relaunched after moving from Florida to New York, with Field promising to make it "bigger, bolder, better".
But he failed to halt the magazine’s long-running sales decline and it is believed circulation decreased from around 1.4 million to below the million mark.
Following the British bloodbath, the Enquirer is to move back to the Florida headquarters it vacated a year ago.
Among those recruited by Field include: former Mail on Sunday investigations editor Paul Henderson, former Daily Mirror US editor Tanith Carey, Daily Mirror feature writer Jane Ridley, Mirror writer Steve Dennis, former Mail on Sunday art director Jo Curran, former chief executive of agency Big Pictures Joe Sene and former Mail on Sunday assistant chief sub-editor Mike O’Brien.
A source said: "Popular belief is that Paul Henderson is going to go to Florida and freelance; pretty much everyone else is going back. [Former People chief reporter] Alexander Hitchen is the only person still there — because he was hired by former editor-in-chief David Perel, who has now returned as editor."
It is understood that the Daily Mail’s former Los Angeles stringer David Gardner, who was deputy editor, is going back to freelancing.
One source claimed that Field and his British dream team were hampered in their efforts to increase circulation by a limited print run: "Even if they had a cracking front page, they didn’t print enough copies to increase circulation that much. Last month’s exclusive about Whitney Houston’s ‘drug den’ only sold about 875,000."
An Enquirer spokeswoman said it was untrue that many of the British journalists were on student visas and that all of them bar Alexander Hitchen had lost their jobs. She also denied the allegation that the Enquirer print run was limited.