Lawson 'spitting blood' over his shock Sunday Telegraph exit

By Dominic Ponsford

Former Sunday Telegraph editor Dominic Lawson is said to be
“spitting blood” since being given his marching orders on Tuesday after
a decade in the job.

Friends of Lawson, 48, say he is infuriated that he was not given a
reason for his dismissal by chief executive Murdoch MacLennan. And
supporters of the deposed editor point out that he has improved sales
in a declining market and led the paper to agenda-setting scoops such
as last November’s “Nannygate” revelations, which cost David Blunkett
his job.

There were said to be tears in the newsroom after he voluntarily decided to leave the building on Tuesday.

Lawson has retained use of his car and PA and his lawyers have yet to agree a payout.

Lawson
is also said to be baffled that his dismissal came after a week in
which he has been defending a libel action involving columnist Gary
Lineker. He is understood to have enjoyed a friendly and criticism-free
relationship with MacLennan up until now.

Lawson has been
replaced by Sarah Sands, 44, who, as Saturday editor of The Daily
Telegraph, has helped make it the paper’s top-selling day of the week.

She
told members of staff on Tuesday that she wants the paper to be “like
an iPod… good to look at and full of your favourite things”.

One
well-placed source suggested that she has been brought in to pursue a
more lifestyle-orientated agenda at the paper and take it downmarket to
com pete with the Mail on Sunday.

Journalists
said Lawson’s exit came as a complete shock. One insider revealed:
“Before Christmas we thought we were going to get Newspaper of the Year
after the Blunkett scoop – there were so many other good stories that
we thought his position looked very strong indeed. There was even talk
of him moving downstairs to edit the daily.

“He was a great
editor who gave everybody a chance and who cared about his staff. If
you brought in very good stories he loved you and if youdidn’t he hated
you – it was a very straightforward relationship.

“The journalists are genuinely sad. He built up this team and his personality was very strongly felt at the paper.”

Lawson,
who lives in Sussex, held a party at his London house in Sloane Square
on Tuesday serving champagne to close colleagues. His sister, celebrity
chef Nigella, did the catering and he was said to be in “bullish form”.

When
Lawson took over the title in 1995 sales for that year averaged  683,065. Sales rose
to a peak of 889,861 in 1997 but have levelled out at about 700,000 over
the past two years. However, sales took a dip last month dropping 5.9
per cent year-on-year to 666,031.

Chief executive MacLennan said:
“Sarah will be responsible for reviewing the style and content of The
Sunday Telegraph and its supplements.

Alongside Martin Newland, she has done a first-class job on the daily, boosting the sales of the Saturday edition.

I have no doubt she will bring a new and different approach to the Sunday market.”

HOW THE EDITORS COMPARE

DOMINIC LAWSON

Lawson began his career at the BBC in 1979 and worked at the
Financial Times from 1981 to 1987 (during which time his father, Nigel,
was Chancellor of the Exchequer). He was made deputy editor of The
Spectator in 1987 and then editor in 1990 (a job previously held by his
father). He had been editor of The Sunday Telegraph since 1995.

He is married to Rosa Monckton.

SARAH SANDS

Starting off as a reporter on the Kent and Sussex Courier Group, she
soon moved to the Evening Standard, where she became editor of the
Londoner’s Diary, features editor and then associate editor. She became
deputy editor at The Daily Telegraph in 1996 and has been Saturday
editor since 2004.

Sands has three children aged 19, 13 and 10 and is married to Telegraph board member and editorial director Kim Fletcher.

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