New Standard editor starts minus key man

Standard: business as usual

Veronica Wadley began her new job  editing the Evening Standard on Monday without the paper's news editor.  Ian Walker had a serious skiing accident just five days before Wadley took over.

Walker was skiing in Alp d'Huez, near Grenoble, France, when he was involved in an accident about which he has no memory but which has left him with serious bone fractures to the jaw, nose and other parts of his face.

He was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Grenoble and had six hours of surgery to reset the bones.  The Standard was hoping that by Friday there would be some news of when he could leave hospital.

He is expected to be there for 10 days before release, probably to a UK hospital.

Mike Leese, his deputy, has been made acting news editor in Walker's absence. Mike Smith, deputy editor of Metro, has been seconded to the Standard to help Leese.

"Walker did not ski into anybody and nobody skiied into him," said journalist friends who flew out to visit him at the weekend.

"He can remember skiing and the next thing he remembers is waking up in hospital. He has been an experienced and enthusiastic skier for many years.

"They are very confident of the outcome at the hospital."

The injuries, though serious, are said to be "eminently treatable".

Walker can't eat solid food but he is capable of taking liquids.

Rumours that the accident had resulted in fractures to Walker's skull and blindness have proved to be groundless.

Walker's wife, Annie Leask, was with him on the ski slopes and has been at his bedside since the accident.

Leese has been with the Standard for 10 years and with Associated Newspapers, first on the Daily Mail, since 1985.

At the Mail, he was an assistant news editor, mostly working nights.

He has been Walker's deputy for around 18 months. Leese is the son of former Evening Standard editor John Leese.

Wadley is said to be very supportive of her substitute newsdesk team, offering help to ensure business as usual. The desk and the rest of the news team have vowed they will keep the operation going to the standard that Walker would have wanted until he is ready to return. He is said to be very disappointed at not being at his desk for Wadley's debut.

Sources say Wadley and her deputy editor, Ian McGregor, pulled in most of the Standard staff on Sunday before her official start.  She has been talking to journalists individually about how she sees the future direction of the paper.

By Jean Morgan

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