Russell Twisk: a successful editor who transformed the fortunes of The Listener and Reader’s Digest

Russell Twisk, former editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest and The Listener, has died aged 71.

On both papers, Twisk significantly boosted circulation figures, and oversaw Reader’s Digest’s glory days during the 1990s when it was transformed into Britain’s bestselling magazine.

Born in London in 1941, his journalism career began at Golf Illustrated, where he was deputy editor, before he switched to the Radio Times, working his way up the ranks to become deputy editor there by 1967.

In 1981, he became seventh editor of The Listener, the BBC-established weekly magazine which closed in 1991. According to the Times, Twisk delivered an “eclectic, highbrow mix of current affairs based on BBC broadcasts, book reviews and arts coverage”. 

Twisk left the title in 1987 for the UK Reader’s Digest, and was responsible for transforming the monthly’s fortunes, such that it took over the Radio Times’ position as Britain’s bestselling magazine. 

During Twisk’s editorship, the magazine secured interviews with leading politicians including Baroness Thatcher, Tony Blair and George W. Bush. From 1998 onwards, as the publication was forced to evolve in the face of the internet, Twisk tried to introduce a more celebrity-based focus to attract a younger audience before retiring in 2002.

Twisk was engaged in all areas of the media, working as The Observer’s radio critic during the 1980s, and serving as a member of the Press Complaints Commission from 1999 to 2002. The Times owes Twisk a special debt for his creation of the brief daily profile (signed “RGT”) that accompanied the newspaper’s Birthdays list. 

Journalist David Hepworth paid tribute to Twisk last night on Twitter: "Just learned of the death of Russell Twisk, formerly of Readers Digest & The Listener. Magazine gentleman of the old school. Lovely man."

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