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November 2, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:43am

Newsnight’s Esme Wren named next Channel 4 News editor

By Charlotte Tobitt

Newsnight editor Esme Wren is leaving the BBC after three years to lead Channel 4 News.

Wren will succeed Channel 4 News editor Ben de Pear, who announced in August he would be stepping down in the New Year after almost ten years in the role.

At Newsnight since 2018 Wren built an all-female presenting line-up and led the team to score Emily Maitlis’ interview with Prince Andrew last year. British Journalism Awards judges described it as a “global, agenda-setting scoop” as they named Maitlis interviewer of the year.

Wren said: “Editing the show over the past three years has been the greatest privilege of my career, working alongside some of the best talent in the industry, too many to mention.

“They are one of the most committed, tenacious, creative teams in the industry and I will miss them greatly along with all my BBC colleagues who work relentlessly hard to deliver the best content for their audience.”

Wren added that the hour-long Channel 4 News “has a rich history of reporting from across the globe, leading some of the most significant investigations of our time”.

“I will look forward to further growing its audience across all platforms and build on its strong heritage of speaking to young and underserved audiences.”

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Wren’s departure means another high-profile BBC News job opening up along with director of news and current affairs, a post which Fran Unsworth will leave in the New Year, and political editor, with Laura Kuenssberg reportedly in talks to step down.

Wren joined Newsnight three years ago from her role as Sky News head of politics, business and specialist journalism, which was the culmination of her 12 years at the broadcaster.

She started her career as a political producer on Newsnight for about five years from 1999.

According to ITN, which makes Channel 4 News, Wren won the job after a “competitive process that attracted applications from across the industry”.

De Pear, who has led Channel 4 News for ten years, plans to focus on long-form TV content and film after leaving the programme. He executive produced the Oscar-nominated documentary For Sama which began as a series of news reports from Syria from journalist Waad Al-Kateab.

Of Wren, he said he was glad Channel 4 News will have “a strong smart and independent editor”, having previously said it would “now be someone else’s privilege to lead the most outstanding, funny, awkward, uncompromising journalists anywhere on the planet, who never take no for an answer and stop at nothing to get to the truth”.

Louisa Compton, Channel 4 head of news, current affairs and sport, said: “Ben left very big shoes to fill – but if anyone can do it, Esme can.

“At a time when truly impartial journalism and trusted information is needed now more than ever Esme will play a vital part in maintaining Channel 4 News’ reputation for world class journalism and building on all the things that make the programme the best in the business – including ground-breaking investigations, in-depth foreign reporting, first class analysis and a huge commitment to diversity and digital – whilst also taking the programme to new heights.”

Deborah Turness, chief executive of ITN, said Wren “has the experience, the expertise and the vision to lead our brilliant Channel 4 News team into the future”.

“Her passion for the brand and her understanding of the spirit of Channel 4 News really made her stand out. She is committed to delivering important, impactful journalism across all platforms, as we accelerate investment in digital and our operations in Leeds.

“Esme is an inclusive, collaborative newsroom leader, who will nurture talent and support the team to deliver their world beating best. This is a pivotal moment for the future of public service broadcasting, and Esme is the right person to keep Channel 4 News at the top of its game.”

Channel 4 is currently facing potential privatisation – but the Government has said it would want the legal “high provision” of news and current affairs content to be “broadly retained” in the event of a change of ownership.

One of Channel 4 News’ most well-known faces, presenter Jon Snow, is also leaving at the end of this year after 32 years but will continue to represent Channel 4, including by fronting longer-form projects. He said of Wren the team is “lucky indeed to inherit such talent and leadership”.

The programme’s other presenters are Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Cathy Newman.

Picture: BBC

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