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April 30, 2024

Caroline Waterston officially becomes Mirror editor after Alison Phillips departure

Waterston, editor-in-chief for magazines and supplements, will lead the Mirror on a permanent basis.

By Charlotte Tobitt

Update 30 April 2024: Caroline Waterston has been named the permanent editor-in-chief of the Mirror after holding the role on an interim basis upon the departure of Alison Phillips.

Waterston, a former deputy editor of the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People and deputy editor-in-chief of the Express and Star titles who has worked for Trinity Mirror then Reach since 2001, said: “It’s an exciting time at the Mirror – a brand that reaches millions every day and not only makes a real difference with its journalism but isn’t afraid to have some fun.

“There is so much to look forward to as we ensure we engage our audiences and keep their loyalty and trust. The opportunity is huge and I can’t wait to take it forward with the brilliant team here.”

In her most recent previous role Waterston led Reach’s magazine and supplements team, including OK! magazine’s digital transformation and its e-commerce OK! Beauty Box initiative which launched in 2020 and now has more than 12,000 subscribers.

Reach chief executive Jim Mullen said: “Caroline brings years of experience in both news and entertainment, along with a keen eye towards the future and a proven track record in ushering teams through digital change.”

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Original story 15 January 2024: Mirror editor-in-chief Alison Phillips will step down at the end of January after almost six years leading the brand.

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Phillips will be succeeded on an interim basis as Mirror editor by Caroline Waterston, editor-in-chief for Reach magazines and supplements, a team for which she will continue to hold editorial responsibility.

It comes after a year in which Reach proposed to make more than 700 redundancies across its national and local titles. However, Press Gazette understands the departure of Phillips is not part of any redundancy scheme and it was her decision to step down.

Phillips was editor of the Daily Mirror and editor-in-chief of the Daily and Sunday titles and The Sunday People.

Her departure follows that of Reach editor-in-chief Lloyd Embley, who left the company after 30 years in July. Other senior departures last year at Reach also include Mike Allen, head of sport at the national titles.

Phillips said in a statement: “The Mirror is one of the finest news brands on earth with an extraordinary team that I will miss forever.

“I will always be beyond proud to be part of a team which showed each day that great journalism can be done with kindness, and be a voice for the decent, compassionate people of this country. I wish everyone there all the very best for a brilliant future.”

Under Phillips’s editorship, the Mirror won numerous British Journalism Awards including: Campaign of the Year for Helen’s Law in 2019 after a law change so killers who refuse to reveal where they dump victims’ bodies are denied parole, Scoop of the Year jointly with The Guardian in 2020 for stories about Dominic Cummings’s lockdown breaches, and Politics Journalism and Journalist of the Year for Pippa Crerar’s Partygate reporting in 2022.

Other successful campaigns run by the Mirror have included changing laws on dangerous dogs, presumed consent on organ donation, and reversing ticket office closures.

Reach chief executive Jim Mullen said: “Alison’s dedication to the Mirror and its audience has seen her lead a very successful period for the title. She has been a much respected and valued colleague and we all wish her well in her next steps.”

Phillips first joined Reach (then Trinity Mirror) in 1998 as a Sunday People feature writer. Her roles since then have included editing the short-lived national daily newspaper The New Day, weekend editor with responsibility for the Sunday People and Sunday Mirror, and deputy editor-in-chief.

She became Daily Mirror editor in 2018 and took ultimate responsibility for the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People as well in February 2020 when the titles moved to a seven-day operation.

While in the role Phillips chaired Women in Journalism for three years, stepping down towards the end of last year.

Waterston has worked at Reach for a similar amount of time, with roles including deputy news editor and features editor of The People, features editor of the Sunday Mirror, head of features and deputy editor on the Sunday titles, and editor-in-chief of the national magazines including OK! magazine.

In 2018 she was appointed deputy editor-in-chief across the Express and Star titles after their acquisition by Reach.

Waterston said on Monday she was “looking forward to returning to the Mirror and to working with the team to build on their success during this critical and exciting time for the brand”.

Mullen said: “Caroline’s many years of senior editorial experience at our national titles, as well as a track record in leading our magazines through a major digital shift, make her well-placed to take on this important role at this time.”

The Mirror is the fourth biggest news website in the UK after BBC News, The Sun and Mail Online, according to Press Gazette’s monthly ranking using Ipsos iris data. It had an audience of 22 million people in November, although this was down 3.5% month-on-month and 14% year-on-year.

In print, the Daily Mirror had an average circulation of 245,829 (down 14% year-on-year), the Sunday Mirror was on 182,978 (down 16%) and The Sunday People was on 61,570 (down 20%) in November.

Group revenue at Reach was down 6.6% in the first nine months of 2023 compared to the same period in the year before. Print advertising revenue was hardest hit, down 15.7%, with digital revenue (including advertising) not far behind – down 15.2%. The company cited “depressed open market yields and the well-publicised declining digital referral volumes, in particular from Facebook’s de-prioritisation of news“.

Print circulation revenue has held up the best despite declining volumes, growing 0.4% in the first nine months of the year. Cover price rises have helped maintain print revenues.

Correction: This story originally said Phillips’s tenure leading the Daily Mirror had been almost four years – in fact it was almost six.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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