Foreign editor in early exit after 'dumbing down' e-mail

Williams: reorganising newsdesk

Daily Express foreign editor Jacqui Goddard, due to leave the paper under the company’s redundancy scheme next week, was told on Tuesday by editor Chris Williams to leave the building by the end of the day, after she e-mailed more than 80 correspondents intimating the paper was being "dumbed down".

Goddard, who has been on the staff since 1997 and foreign editor for three and a half years, is known to have been disappointed at the paper’s diminished interest in hard foreign news and made her point forcibly in the e-mail. The paper, she said, "has undergone changes I no longer feel comfortable with".

Her move has also been triggered by the company’s refusal to allow the recruitment of a new deputy foreign editor to help her with the dual Daily and Sunday Express workload, following Tim Shipman’s switch to the Sunday political team in March.

Williams told Press Gazette: "I am disappointed that Jacqui has left under the voluntary redundancy scheme. I did ask her to stay. We had two long discussions about a different approach to foreign news. She thought about it and decided she didn’t want to stay.

"To e-mail foreign correspondents who work for the Daily Express suggesting that the paper is being dumbed down is an act of disloyalty."

Goddard told Press Gazette: "I have enjoyed working here but feel it is time to move on. The editorial pace has changed. We shall see from the circulation figures what it is the readers want. I wish the paper all the best with its change of direction."

Most of the correspondents had felt the change already, said Goddard, and there were those who had benefited. "A lot of showbiz still comes through the foreign desk. I do know some though who have started widening their markets knowing that things will be diminished," she said.

She told the correspondents she did not know if she would be replaced, adding: "The idea appears to be for a junior reporter to man the wires and the phones, with the home newsdesk overseeing operations." Williams said: "I haven’t decided yet whether there will be a replacement foreign editor. David Leigh [the paper’s new assistant editor, news] has just arrived and I have moved an experienced desk man, Howard Smith, from the picture desk to the newsdesk. David, Howard and I are still reorganising the desk."

Goddard is to work with an aid agency and will do roving foreign news and features on a freelance basis.

She previously worked for the INS news agency in Reading and the Southern Daily Echo, where she won 13 awards. She shifted for the Daily Express from 1994 and has also worked on its night desk.

By Jean Morgan

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