News pair swap tabloids for Miami Splash bureau

Leigh and Thompson are moving to the US before their kids start school

Former Sun news editor Sue Thompson and Daily Express head of news David Leigh are off to Miami, Florida, to head up a new bureau for the agency Splash.

Thompson left The Sun in May after 10 years working on the newsdesk at the paper and Leigh is due to leave the Express at the end of this month after three years. Before that he was news editor at the Mirror for three years and night news editor at the paper for another three.

Splash was launched in 1989 by British journalists Gary Morgan and Kevin Smith and has offices in Toronto, London, New York and Los Angeles. The agency has cashed in on the explosion in celebrity-based news.

Leigh said: “I’ve been on a desk for 10 years and I decided it was time to go out and have some fun. We’ve both been pretty chained to our desks for a long time.

“Just before I came to the Express, I was foreign editor at the Mirror for three or four months and I went out to cover the US election and had great fun.”

The pair are both 40 and have two children aged four and 18 months.

Leigh said: “We decided that once they were both in education, it would be difficult to take them out of school. It was now or never really.

“News editing a national newspaper is the best job in the world. But it’s allconsuming, it’s not nine to five, it’s something you do around the clock and we’ve both been under a lot of pressure.

“We’ve split our time between a flat in London and a house in Hampshire, but it was getting quite difficult. This will give us more time to be together as a family.”

Thompson and Leigh met Splash owner Smith when they all started their journalism careers as reporters on Brighton’s Evening Argus.

Smith said: “It’s great for us to have people who are so senior and can see from a newspaper’s point of view what is needed. It also fills a huge void – Fleet Street has been nagging us for years to go down there.

“Since Graham Dudman left Florida to go back to The Sun as features editor, there’s been a gap there. There’s a gaggle of freelances but there’s nobody who provides words and pictures and files every day to whom you can make one phone call and consider the job done.

“There’s so much happening down there, there’s a huge expat community in Florida and right now Wayne Rooney is on a beach there. Brits are forever getting mugged and robbed in Orlando.”

The Splash Miami bureau is due to open in August. Smith has yet to reveal which photographers he has recruited.

By Dominic Ponsford

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