Did Palace U-turn cost Cox editorship of Daily Record?

Cox: “angry and astonished”

The abrupt termination of Daily Record editor Peter Cox’s contract last weekend is down to the St James’s Palace U-turn on his planned interview with Prince William.

The interview, the first the Prince had given since starting at St Andrews University, had been fixed for next Wednesday. It was to be pooled, along with photographs taken by the Record, with other Scottish newspapers.

But when Cox revealed to Press Gazette at the beginning of this month that he was going to conduct it, the Palace was besieged with complaints from angry rivals and papers began running William stories they had previously sat on to protect his privacy.

The Palace reacted by withdrawing permission for the interview and the Prince of Wales’s private secretary, Sir Michael Peat, told other editors it had not been meant to go to Cox alone, but to the Press Association and a regional Scottish paper also. PA, the only organisation hitherto allowed to interview Prince William, is now to get the interview.

Cox returned from a Caribbean cruise at the weekend to learn his fate. He is in discussion with Trinity Mirror on his contract terms.

Though the company would not give reasons for his departure, there has been speculation that the real reason for his sacking was falling sales at the Daily Record, now selling 507,375, down 9.9 per cent year-on-year. This can hardly be laid at Cox’s door, since the company strategy has been to boost the Daily Mirror in Scotland by price-cutting, which has hit the Record’s sales.

The Scottish Sun, whose editor Bruce Waddell now replaces Cox, fought price cut with price cut and remains 7p cheaper than the Record.

Cox has made no secret of his opposition to the price differential, which has not gone down well inside the company.

But he has given the Record a high profile. His anti-drugs campaign got 20,000 people marching on the streets of Glasgow and the paper has won awards during his editorship.

He is unable to comment. Colleagues say he was caught on the hop by his dismissal and feels angry and astonished that he was removed over the cancelled interview.

On Monday at 9am board directors and heads of department at the Record were called to Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail managing director Mark Hollinshead’s office to hear the news. When Hollinshead asked if there were any questions, he was greeted with silence.

Record staff remain edgy until they know what changes in personnel Waddell will make, though the general mood is one of relief after an unsettled fortnight.

Waddell was said to have been approached early last week but did not accept the job until Friday. He was sent home from The Sun on “gardening leave” on Monday when his departure was announced. Record deputy editor Murray Foote holds the fort until he arrives at Central Quay.

Hollinshead said Waddell had enormous experience in Scotland and a deep understanding of the market.

Waddell said: “The Daily Record is the daily newspaper of Scotland. Its heritage and market-leading position gives it unique status, and this is a tremendous opportunity for me to be involved in keeping the Record out in front of its rivals.”

By Jean Morgan

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