By Jean Morgan
Tony Watson, who last month quit the Yorkshire Post after editing the paper for 13 years, is to be the Press Association’s new head of business development.
His appointment came as Phil Hall announced he was leaving PA to join Trinity Mirror (see page 9). But talks about Watson joining the national news agency are thought to have been going on since he revealed his intention to leave the Post in November.
Paul Potts, PA’s chief executive and editor-in-chief, has made it his business to trawl for talent whenever it has become available. The steady churn of people through the agency has seen top national newspaper journalists such as David Emery, Terry Manners and Pat Pilton, as well as Hall, spend useful spells there.
As they move on, PA gains allies in influential places, although Pilton is to remain, having had his summer part-time working plans put on hold.
Although Watson’s role will be different from Hall’s, his brief will take in many of the latter’s responsibilities. He will be based at the company’s Howden centre in East Yorkshire.
Watson will spearhead development of the company’s editorial products for new media and traditional markets, identify new opportunities, and help PA to strengthen relationships with its national and regional newspaper customers.
He will also develop PA’s contract publishing arm, working closely with Eric Rayner, managing director of Central Press Features, the Bristol-based agency acquired by PA at the end of last year.
In Watson’s years at the helm of the Yorkshire Post, the paper picked up numerous industry awards. It was named Newspaper of the Year at last year’s Press Gazette Regional Press awards and also won the Team of the Year accolade for its coverage of September 11.
Potts said: “He has done an outstanding job as editor of the Yorkshire Post and with his talent and knowledge of the newspaper industry, he will be a tremendous asset to PA and its customers. Any company would regard Tony as a coup and a talent.”
Watson, delighted to have the opportunity of playing a key role in PA’s “exciting plans for the future”, said his new job would be very different from editing the Post. “But it is what I wanted.
“I didn’t want to go straight into editing something else. I wanted to apply my knowledge of editorial content in a wider environment,” he said.