She is going to put the fun back in The Sun. Ensconced in the editor’s office by 7am on Tuesday, her first day, Rebekah Wade was wearing a “massive” badge saying “P3”, provided by friends.
According to colleagues, Wade was gearing up to say goodbye to her staff at the News of the World and hello to her new team at The Sun. The badge was a statement to cheer them up. Page-three girls would stay in the paper and she wanted them to know it immediately.
Not that they needed cheering. After hearing her positive mission statement, many of them felt this was going to be a return to The Sun of Kelvin MacKenzie and Stuart Higgins – fun, bounce, big stories.
She surprised them by saying she would not have been allowed to edit the paper had deputy editor Fergus Shanahan not stayed. Shanahan’s sessions as stand-in for David Yelland are reckoned to have been an unqualified success – particularly during the Soham murders coverage – and Wade thinks he’s “brilliant”.
She is determined that no punch-ups with other newspapers will detract from her agenda – “no other papers count” – and her first edict was that they were not to be mentioned in
Wade made it plain she was the editor and she was in charge, and gave them warning that she intended to be highly visible, on the back bench just as MacKenzie and Higgins used to be.
“It’s back to the future,” said one senior journalist. “In those days, when the editor was on the floor there was a huge buzz and excitement for everybody, even if you weren’t directly involved in the particular story. Everyone got caught up in the emotion and excitement.”
Wade, 34, was said by News of the World insiders to be “completely shocked” when she was told of her promotion on Monday, even though there had been rumours of it for a long time. She had never thought News Corporation would give the paper to a woman. She will be its first female editor and the first woman to edit a redtop daily in the UK.
One insider said: “Rupert Murdoch takes a year normally to make up his mind.”
Her friend and now biggest rival, Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan, said: “Murdoch works in a familiar way. He never sacks people whenever others think he should. He waits till there’s a more convenient exit strategy.
“The Sun, through Larry Lamb, Kelvin MacKenzie to Stuart Higgins, was always the brashest, loudest, most-talked-about tabloid newspaper. Rupert Murdoch’s not a fool. He knows the Daily Mirror has replaced The Sun in that role in this country.
“In the last year, in terms of noise, we have just smashed them off the park.
“Rebekah is a much more instinctive, controversial tabloid journalist than Yelland. She is a good friend, but I also respect her very much as a journalist.”
While NoW staff got the impression Wade was not going to make major changes in staff at The Sun, it wasn’t long before she and her successor, Andy Coulson, normally the best of mates, were squabbling about who she would take with her from the NoW.
She is known to want to move Ally Ross back to The Sun, which currently has no TV editor, and has NoW picture supremo and No3 Geoff
Webster in her sights.