Head of Sky News John Ryley will depart his role in spring 2023 after 17 years at the helm.
In a letter to staff, he hailed Sky News as “a challenger brand” that has “demonstrated time and again that public service journalism cannot be left solely to the public service news organisations”.
Ryley said he had informed Sky in 2021 that he intended to step down from the job no more than two years later. His successor is expected to be appointed in the coming weeks.
Ryley’s wife Harriet died in December 2019 aged 58, and the outgoing news boss said he felt the spring of 2023 “would be a fitting moment to stop daily journalism and start projects incompatible with leading a news organisation”. He also plans to spend more time with his three grown-up children.
Ryley joined Sky News from programme editing ITV’s News at Ten in 1995, first taking on the role of output editor and then as executive editor responsible for daily news coverage.
His tenure as head of Sky News began in 2006, when Rupert Murdoch’s son James was chief executive of British Sky Broadcasting. The broadcaster has since passed out of Murdoch’s ownership and into that of multimedia giant Comcast, which pledged as part of the deal that it would guarantee Sky News’ funding until 2028.
Ryley wrote that leading the organisation across the 17 years had been “thrilling, humbling and on occasions, lonely”.
Praising Sky News’ staff, Ryley said “we should all be proud” of the organisation’s high trust ratings, that it “is one of the world’s fastest growing news publisher[s] on Tiktok” having gone from 22,000 followers to three million in a year, and “proud, too, that we have demonstrated time and time again that public service journalism cannot be left solely to the public service news organisations”.
He added: “I hope my successor believes in the value of eye-witness journalism putting our camera operators and journalists at the heart of the news and remembers Sky News – at its best – is a challenger brand, and that it’s not the cleverest or biggest news organisation that succeeds but the one most adaptable to change.”
He signed off his letter with the Latin phrase “festina lente”, meaning “make haste slowly”.
Sky Group chief executive Dana Strong followed up Ryley’s letter with a memo thanking him “for his extraordinary and enduring contribution to Sky over more than two decades…
“From the successful campaign for Britain’s first live televised Leaders’ Debates, for which he was recognised for his role by the television industry with Broadcast’s ‘Individual Achievement Award’. Or bringing cameras into courts for the first time in the UK. Or the first dedicated daily climate programme – all of his firsts have been linked to what people really care about.
“John has taken Sky’s influence and relevance to new levels and kept Sky News vibrant.”
In a comment piece for Press Gazette in August last year, Ryley wrote about the changing role of the broadcaster and its journalists: “The age of the all-powerful anchor is gone – instead they share the stage with journalists in the field, providing the audience with the high fibre news they demand.”
Sky News journalist Adam Boulton would later link Ryley’s article to his departure from the broadcaster in an interview with Press Gazette.
Boulton said: “My motto’s always been I want to work for people who want me to work for them. And I had a conversation a year ago with John Ryley about his plans for the channel. And I felt that… he wanted to go in a particular direction, and that didn’t particularly leave a lot of room for me.”
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