Wallace: ‘The greatest challenge is circulation’
New Daily Mirror editor Richard Wallace is expected to try to re-engage the paper’s traditionally strong northern readership base and bring a “sense of balance” to the paper.
According to friends, Wallace senses that northern readers “have been wilfully ignored, or taken for granted, in pursuit of a blinkered, London-rules agenda”.
The news comes as The Sun announced on Wednesday that it plans to close its Manchester office on 23 July and co-ordinate North of England correspondents from Wapping. About 10 staff are believed to be affected.
Whatever his plans, there is no doubt Wallace’s main priority will be to tackle the title’s flagging circulation, which has dropped well below the 2 million mark over the past year. It currently stands at 1,846,734 – compared with 2.3 million copies a day four years ago.
Wallace said: “The greatest challenge for national newspapers is circulation. I’m confident that we have the team, the talent and the will to tackle this challenge.”
The appointment of Wallace, who was deputy editor at the Sunday Mirror, ends a month of uncertainty for journalists following the sacking of long-standing editor Piers Morgan over the fake Iraq torture pictures affair.
Wallace has been with the Mirror Group for 14 years. He started his journalism career at the Leicester Mercury at the age of 18 and, after briefly working in marketing at EMI records, joined the now defunct Ox and Bucks news agency.
After shifting with The Mail on Sunday, Wallace was recruited to the Mirror showbiz desk in 1990 by then editor Roy Greenslade. As showbiz editor he was responsible for creating the 3am Girls gossip page.
In October 2000, he became head of news, later overseeing the coverage of September 11 and the war in Afghanistan, which helped the Mirror win newspaper of the year in the 2002 British Press Awards.
After 15 months as New York-based US editor, he became Tina Weaver’s deputy at the Sunday Mirror last August and has been acting editor during her maternity leave for the past four months.
Wallace was named editor on Thursday evening, during half-time in England’s Euro 2004 match against Switzerland. The news was met with an enthusiastic response from staff.
Sources at the paper have dismissed reports that Wallace was second choice to News of the World editor Andy Coulson after he turned the job down.
Although other candidates may have been “sounded out”, the source said, no formal job offer could be made until the Trinity Mirror board had met on Thursday afternoon.
In addition to the appointment of Wallace, Trinity Mirror has announced that national newspapers general manager Ellis Watson has been promoted to managing director. The move means editors of the UK national titles will report to him, rather than directly to chief executive Sly Bailey.
Eugene Duffy has been appointed managing editor, nationals, replacing head of editorial management, Colin Harrow, who is retiring. Duffy will take up the job on 4 July and has previously been head of news and news editor.
Wallace has yet to name a deputy editor following acting editor Des Kelly’s decision to leave after missing out on the top job.
By Dominic Ponsford