This month saw Evgeny Lebedev announce that Tory MP, George Osborne, was to become editor of the London Evening Standard. The news was met with a raft of criticism and calls for the MP to step down from his Tatton seat. Whilst the aftermath has been predominantly on Osborne’s political future, what does the appointment mean for the paper?
Newspaper editor is by no means a part time job. Chris Blackhurst, former editor of The Independent, said last week that “there weren’t enough hours in the day to accommodate all the demands”.
So, will Osborne’s responsibilities as editor of a daily newspaper get in the way of his duties to the Tatton constituency? You would think that running the economy whilst holding a seat could be ample preparation for juggling the two jobs. But there also greater repercussions around a prominent figure in politics holding such an influential position in news.
George Osborne is not the first MP to make the move into journalism; Iain MacLeod became editor of The Spectator in 1963, Bill Deedes went from Minister to editor of the Telegraph in 1974, and Michael Gove wrote for the times for nearly 15 years, five of which whilst holding his seat in Surrey Heath. So why the sudden outrage that a back bencher is taking position at a regional newspaper?
It is likely that Osborne’s role will be ceremonial and as a driver for non-newsprint projects, such as building an events arm, and increasing overall commercial growth in lieu of a coverprice. Whilst he might help get the odd scoop and provide the title with more depth in its political and business sections, it is unlikely his position will be used to change the title’s political stance.
The Standard has historically been a centre right leaning publication, and in the run up to the London Mayoral election its reported it ran twice as many Zac Goldsmith pieces as Sadiq Khan, so the influence of a serving Tory MP is unlikely to anger audiences to any notable degree.
What’s clear, is the PR value this appointment has made, with print and digital news sources publishing stories about a newspaper that had seen slower growth than freemium competitor the Metro. In the wake of such vast PR we would expect to see an increase in circulation, potentially from both ends of the political spectrum.
Quality newspapers have seen a resurgence in recent months, following major political movements. Consumers are reverting to quality journalism for a trusted source of content, and whilst we must wait to see the impact Osborne will have, it’s clear the Standard is looking to invest in editorial staff to keep quality content at the heart of London evening news.