Back Issues 08.01.04


At The Sun it was the end of an era. Kelvin MacKenzie was stepping down after 13 rip-roaring years in the editor’s chair which saw the newspaper become the UK’s topselling redtop, eclipsing the Daily Mirror. In a farewell tribute, Roy Greenslade wrote: “Almost every senior journalist who has worked with Kelvin MacKenzie regards him, as I do, a genius of his trade.” At the same time Greenslade posed the question: “So why do we appreciate Kelvin the journalist while deploring his monstrous behaviour to staff, his political agenda and the content of The Sun?” MacKenzie was moving to become managing director of BSkyB. “At least he’s not Australian,” said a BSkyB staffer.


MacKenzie’s departure led to his trusted deputy, Stuart Higgins, taking over as editor of The Sun. Higgins was recalled from the News of the World, where he was acting editor in place of Patsy Chapman. The real surprise was the sudden rise of Piers Morgan to the editorship of the News of the World at the tender age of 28. Morgan was best known as the face of The Sun’s Bizarre column, where he was often pictured with his showbiz chums. His last Bizarre column was headlined “End of the Piers Show”. In fact it was only the beginning. His success at the NoW led to him being poached to edit the Daily Mirror.


The Independent was about to lose its independence. Anxious journalists were demanding editorial safeguards as the Telegraph Group, Mirror Group and Tony O’Reilly’s Irish Independent Group were all believed to be in the running to take a
major stake in the paper.

Its journalists were concerned that the original ethos of The Independent as a newspaper not under the control of a proprietor would be compromised.


The death knell was sounding for Fleet Street. The Press Association announced it was the latest media outlet to move out, quitting its famous home at 85 Fleet Street. PA was said to consider that the office was no longer “newsroom friendly” and was looking for new premises. It eventually moved to Victoria and expanded its northern base in East Yorkshire.


A publishing sensation was about to launch. IPC was preparing to unleash Loaded on to the men’s market. Edited by James Brown, the magazine was the prototype “lads’ mag” and became the success story of the naughty Nineties. Loaded was aimed at single men aged 18 to 35 interested in pub and club culture – a younger market than existing men’s lifestyle titles such as GQ, Esquire, FHM and Arena.

The then editor of FHM, Francis Cottam, was dismissive of the new kid on the block. “We are past masters at irreverence and already fulfil pretty comprehensively the market sector they are talking about,” he told Press Gazette. IPC was hoping for an average sale of 45,000. It exceeded that – and how – by peaking with sales of nearly 500,000 and spawned many imitators. Today Loaded still sells a healthy 260,000.

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