Former Independent editor Roger Alton is a class act and shows it with his departure email to staff following his sudden departure on Friday.
Quoted in full on The Guardian, he says: “Gosh, sorry that was a bit rushed but I thought it was the best thing to do. Before I trundle off to spend more time in the nets, though, I just wanted to say thanks to you all for the immense privilege of working with you. I cannot emphasise too much how this has been easily the most exciting, the most fulfilling, and the most enjoyable time of my life.”
Alton was treated shabbily by incoming new owner Alexander Lebedev, whose camp appeared to feed wild speculation about possible successors as editor before the deal to buy the paper was even done. That included this story on Media Guardian in March suggesting that everyone from Greg Dyke to Jeremy Paxman was on Lebedev’s “wish list” to edit the paper.
In an age where editors rarely stick their head above the parapet, Alton has maintained a refreshingly old fashioned attitude – never shirking a question from a journalist, and always speaking his mind.
When Mirror journalists accused The Independent of stealing their fair tips for restaurant staff campaign idea in 2008, Alton told Press Gazette: “This is complete bollocks. I can’t believe newspapers are going around shit bagging other newspapers in order to protect people on the minimum wage.”
He has however maintained a dignified silence about his reasons for for leaving The Independent, as he did about departing from The Observer after ten years in charge two years ago. Although, with hindsight, it seems likely that such an uppity editor did not fit into the masterplan for a largely merged Guardian/Observer/web operation.
He may be going back to the nets, but at 62 he probably still has another innings in him. Fleet Street will be a poorer place if he opts this time to stay in the pavilion.