Lewis: From North London comprehensive to Telegraph editor's chair

Those worried by a recent survey which showed class elitism is still endemic in British journalism can take solace from the fact that a former comprehensive schoolboy from Brent Cross has just been made editor of The Daily Telegraph.

Will Lewis has enough polish to be far from out of place at the Conservative-leaning broadsheet — but in terms of background he is still a long way from predecessors such as Charles Moore (who went to Eton) and Max Hastings (Charterhouse).

His opposite number at The Times — Robert Thomson — is a former boss, and this week he set aside commercial rivalry.

He told Press Gazette: "I've known Will for a long time — he's a mate. Will and I were together in New York rolling out the FT for about four years. He's a very capable journalist and will be a formidable competitor."

At 37, Lewis is one of the youngest Telegraph editors in the paper's history — but he still has an impressive CV, albeit one mainly rooted in business journalism.

After studying economics at Bristol and then training as a journalist at City University in London, he joined The Mail on Sunday finance team for three years.

He then spent eight and half years at the Financial Times — finishing up as global news editor.

He was then business editor of The Sunday Times for three and half years before being appointed City editor of The Daily Telegraph in August 2005 by then-editor Martin Newland.

Newland himself was only appointed in October 2003 and had managed to survive the Barclay brothers' takeover of June 2005, only to resign abruptly in November of that year, a week after Telegraph Group editor-in-chief John Bryant was appointed over his head.

Since then, Bryant has been acting editor of The Daily Telegraph and he now remains editor-in-chief, also overseeing the Sunday title.

Lewis's currency at the Telegraph has risen higher and higher as he has thrown his weight behind leading the office move from Canary Wharf to Victoria and creating what is claimed to be the first fully integrated, multimedia national newspaper newsroom.

Lewis had barely settled into the business editor's chair before being promoted to joint deputy editor.

In April, he was then relieved of his editing responsibilities to concentrate on the office move, and just six weeks ago he was promoted to the new position of Telegraph Group managing director (editorial).

Senior business journalists and former colleagues of Lewis have praised him for his energy and story-getting ability, but have warned that he is "relatively untested" away from the business arena.

City AM news editor David Hellier said that while in New York for the Financial Times, Lewis developed a reputation for delivering top-rate scoops and exclusives on mergers and acquisitions.

He said: "He spots a story very quickly and he's very energetic."

A former colleague said: "When he was at The Mail on Sunday, he was very much viewed as a rising star and that's obviously proved to be true. I think the challenges at the Telegraph are obviously huge for him. It's an enormous task. If he succeeds, what next?

He'll be taking over the world by the time he's 45… He's young enough to have loads of energy, but old enough to have a bit of experience."

Former financial journalist and PR man George Pitcher, who worked closely with Lewis early in his career, said: "He gave no quarter journalistically.

He intuitively knew the rules, not letting you down on off-the-record arrangements. He has none of this pomposity or arrogance that very often goes with the journalistic metabolism, which means he got to places that other journalists didn't."

He added: "I remember flying to New York with him in the biggest thunderstorm that I've ever seen, but Will was calmness itself. It might have had something to do with the fact that he was on his third miniature bourbon, but he was always a much, much more mature journalist in a young skin. A lot of people remarked on the fact that he was oldschool, meaning he understands the unwritten laws of Fleet Street."

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