The Mirror has been raiding mid and upmarket rival newspapers to assemble a line-up of formidable writers – "serious people to capitalise on serious news", according to editor Piers Morgan.
Matthew Norman is transferring his current affairs and sport columns from the Evening Standard to The Mirror but will retain his Guardian diary column. Morgan has been after him for some time and when Norman’s contract came up for renewal this week, swooped to sign him.
Guardian commentator Jonathan Freedland is also to write a minimum of a dozen pieces each year for The Mirror. The paper bought his Guardian pieces three times during its coverage of the war on terrorism and now wants him to write to order for it.
Broadsheet columnist Miranda Sawyer, who already writes for The Mirror’s M magazine, is to extend her "smartest ladette in town" view of life to the main paper.
Foreign correspondent and author John Pilger returns to The Mirror to write eight pieces a year.
Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair’s trenchant columnist, has agreed informally to contribute to the paper for which he loves writing, he has told Morgan. Pieces by Pilger and Hitchens were also used prominently in the aftermath of 11 September.
"It’s probably the biggest single hiring of top talent that certainly The Mirror has ever had, and, I would argue, any tabloid has had," said Morgan.
"These are people who want to work for us because they like the way the paper’s going. It’s incredibly gratifying for me to see such a glittering array of people coming on board. I think this is a real opportunity for us and a sea-change for The Mirror.
"They will all be appearing once a month writing 1,200-word news- analysis pieces, a commitment to really good commentary.
"To those who say that serious news doesn’t work, I would have a little bet that our sale for January will be higher by 35-40,000 copies than it was last January and that The Sun will be in the region of 150,000 copies down – a complete vindication of what we are doing."
By Jean Morgan