The Daily and Sunday Sport are expected to return to a more traditional news-based editorial style and go back on the daily ‘newzine’approach following the appointment this week of regional press man Murray Morse as editor.
The newspapers’ circulations and its owner’s share price have plummeted after a redesign in April which aimed to create a ‘daily lads’ mag’in the vein of Zoo – the magazine founded and edited by Barry McIlheney, who makes way for Morse after seven months as editor-in-chief of the two titles.
McIlheney, a magazine expert who launched Heat magazine and Empire and edited Smash Hits during its Eighties’ peak, now becomes group editorial director of Sport Media Group and will be in charge of all the group’s print and digital output.
Both Sport titles have struggled since being bought by Sport Media Group last summer from founder David Gold.
The Daily Sport’s circulation for June was 82,920, down from 97,199 in March, while the Sunday Sport was at 78,976 – a drop of more than 19 per cent year on year.
Sport Media Group’s share price has nosedived to 14p after first floating at 77p in August.
Murray Morse, the former Cambridge Evening News editor, who left the Iliffe News and Media title on 18 April and set up his own media consultancy, is to be brought in as editor of the Manchester-based papers on Monday.
Speaking to Press Gazette, Morse said his arrival could result in a more news-led approach, though he stressed that McIlheney had done a good job in turning the newspapers into colourful, magazine-style titles.
‘This is just a fantastic opportunity. There are big plans ahead for the group as a whole. And Manchester must be the last major media centre I’ve not worked in. I’m not saying there isn’t a lot to be done, because there is – particularly on the news side.
‘Barry was brought in to do a job, and with his background in magazines, he followed the brief to the letter. But in terms of the overall newspaper going forward, they obviously feel that bringing it back to the feel of a newspaper is the way forward.”
Morse described the offer as ‘too good to be true’and one that ‘came out of the blue”.
Morse spent three and half years in Cambridge and already has some red-top experience having worked for The Sun and News of the World in Scotland.
McIlheney told Press Gazette: ‘I’m very happy to be appointed group editorial director. I think someone with Murray’s experience will come in and do a really good job from a newspaper background. It plays to his strengths as my new role plays to mine.
‘My role is moving away from the paper and working very much on the magazine we’ve got, the magazines we may well acquire or launch and all the digital stuff.”
McIlheney was brought in by consultant editor James Brown, founder of Loaded, who now works one day a month for an estimated six-figure sum.
As many as 20 staff, many of them involved in the news operation, were made redundant by the papers’ new owners.
The papers are famous for their bizarre, sexual and often fabricated news stories such as ‘World War II bomber found on the moon’and ‘Donkey robs bank”.