Telegraph bosses under fire from former editors

Ian MacGregor will be hoping seven is his lucky number as he starts his editorship of The Sunday Telegraph this week.

Since the Barclay brothers took over the Telegraph titles in June 2005, there have been seven editors of the two papers. Elsewhere in the quality newspaper market just one editorship – of the FT – has changed over the same period.

MacGregor, 45, had been deputy editor of The Daily Telegraph since September 2006, and before that was deputy editor of the Evening Standard for four years.

He was editor of the Scottish Daily Mail for 18 months and prior to that was launch editor of free daily Metro. He has also been news editor of the Daily Mail.

MacGregor began his national newspaper career on the Daily Express as education correspondent and then New York correspondent.

His first job as editor will be to steady the ship and ensure staff are not too rattled by recent upheavals.

Former Sunday Telegraph editors Dominic Lawson and Sarah Sands were both strongly critical of Telegraph management this week following the abrupt departure of yet another editor at the title.

They have also questioned the wisdom of further involving Sunday

Telegraph journalists in a seven-day integrated Telegraph Media Group web operation – a strategy which is believed to have prompted Wheatcroft’s departure.

‘Perhaps Sunday Telegraph editors should be given danger money like private security staff in Iraq,’joked Sands.

She added: ‘I am not sure how a Sunday paper – which depends on exclusive stories and memorable writing – can be reconciled to the frantic pace of a 24-7 multimedia organisation.”

And Lawson, who was dismissed in 2005 after a decade in charge of The Sunday Telegraph, said: ‘There are some incredibly good journalists and reporters at The Sunday Telegraph and I feel terribly sorry for them that they have been given such as rough ride for such a long time. This kind of chaos is terribly upsetting for the people who actually bring the paper out and make it work.”

He added: ‘If you look at the Sunday market, it’s very difficult being anything other than market leader. Anything other than the News of the World in the red-tops, The Mail on Sunday in the mid-market, and The Sunday Times at the top end.

‘Unless the management of those papers that are not the market leaders are prepared to go to extraordinary efforts they won’t get what they think they want.That may be the reason for the toing and froing.”

John Carey, father of the NUJ chapel at the Telegraph Group, said recent changes have left staff with ‘a sense of uncertainty”, adding ‘it has been a very difficult time for four years and it’s not getting any easier.”

Carey said that while TMG management had signalled in the past that there would be no move to merge the daily and Sunday teams, Wheatcroft’s departure has led staff to seek further assurances.

He said: ‘In the past, when we have raised this with the senior executives they have always said there was no question of it and that every attempt at other papers, like at Today and the Telegraph many years ago, have failed.

‘But if Lewis is editor-in-chief and MacGregor editor of the Sunday paper, then they are going to make more of an approach to a seven-day operation. Patience was always fighting against that.”

Telegraph editorial managers are understood to feel it would be more destabilising to have senior staff on board who want to pursue a differing course to the rest of the company.

One senior insider said of the Sunday Telegraph online integration: ‘We regard this as investment in our Sunday product rather than letting it wither on the vine.”

Telegraph bosses believe that keeping The Sunday Telegraph team out of the web operation could be counter-productive ‘because that’s where the action is”, said the Press Gazette source.

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