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Evening Standard’s Sarah Sands taking pay cut for Today editor role she sees as an ‘honour’

By Freddy Mayhew

Evening Standard editor Sarah Sands has said she comes as a “respectful listener” to the Today programme after being appointed as its editor despite having no broadcasting experience.

Sands, who was named as the next editor of BBC Radio 4’s flagship news and current affairs programme on Monday, has also revealed that she is taking a pay cut for the role.

Speaking on the BBC Media Show today, Sands said she would be paid “hugely less than I have been” and confirmed her salary would be less than it is at the Standard when she takes over later this year.

Asked why she had made the move, Sands replied: “Because it’s an honour to take this job.”

Sands has edited the Standard for five years and was previously editor at the Sunday Telegraph and Reader’s Digest.

Her appointment is said to have “annoyed” BBC News staffers, Press Gazette has reported, who see news director James Harding as having repeatedly hired from print media outside the corporation.

The Today editor role was advertised externally as requiring “extensive experience of broadcast journalism at a senior level” and “a sound appreciation of studio production techniques” from candidates.

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A BBC spokesperson said Sands was the “stand-out candidate” for the job.

Acknowledging she had no broadcasting experience, Sands told the BBC: “I come as a respectful listener so it’s really [about] understanding the place of the Today programme in the nation’s hearts.”

She said: “I have never had so much advice on a job in so short a time and mostly it’s ‘don’t do anything’,” adding: “I shall be tremendously respectful and reliant on people who do know technically how all of this works.”

She said coming at the role as a listener of the show meant she was “very aware of voices and soundscapes” and said that “in a way I think that does bring you some perspective”.

She added: “I think if you approach it slightly in the same way that you approach a newspaper, for this job, in that you want something that feels complete and has a guiding intelligence or personality and has a good mix, so all those things are what you do as a newspaper editor.”

Sands said she was not aware of any budget cuts that could impact the Today programme and said she had “no plans to freshen up” the presenting team, which includes broadcaster John Humphrys.

She added: “I’m going to try and learn how the programme works, but as a listener it sounds pretty good to me.”

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