Tony Gallagher becomes editor of the Times

One of Rupert Murdoch’s longest-serving editors, John Witherow, has resigned from his position at The Times and will be replaced by his deputy, heralding a new era for the media baron’s 238-year-old British newspaper.

Murdoch’s News UK said on Tuesday that Witherow, who has run the London-based publication since 2013 and before that its Sunday sister title since 1994, has resigned to become chairman of Times Newspapers, which oversees both titles.

The company declined to comment on the identity of its successor and said it would announce the appointment on Wednesday. However, people familiar with the matter said Tony Gallagher is being promoted from deputy editor to editor of his third national title, having previously managed the Daily Telegraph and The Sun.

He will seek to capitalize on The Times’ recent profitability and build on efforts to persuade readers to pay £26 a month for a digital subscription.

The Times, like other newspapers, faces what is sometimes a painful online transition. But under Witherow it found financial and editorial success alongside The Sunday Times, whose newsroom is managed separately.

The popularity of a combined smartphone app has helped the two titles reverse years of losses as The Sun redtop bolstered the financial results of Murdoch’s UK newspaper business.

Relative performance has changed since then, with more upmarket titles outperforming the tabloid – shifting the balance of power within News UK, whose chief executive is Rebekah Brooks, a former editor of The Sun.

Known for a particularly strong work ethic and exacting standards, Gallagher is unusual in having a background at the forefront of both tabloid and broadsheet journalism.

He clipped his teeth in national newspapers at the Daily Mail and later became an editor at the Daily Telegraph, the Times’ rival, before being fired in 2014, saying he was fired “because I’m good”.

After a stint outside of journalism as an apprentice chef in a London restaurant, he returned to the Mail and was recruited by News UK as Editor-in-Chief of The Sun in 2015. In 2020 he moved to The Times.

His challenges as an editor include attracting diverse types of readers and securing more digital subscriptions at a time when inflation is forcing consumers to rein in their discretionary spending. Rising newsprint costs are putting additional pressure on printed newspapers.

Staffers have also questioned whether The Times and The Sunday Times could be more closely integrated after the UK government recently lifted restrictions in place after Murdoch bought it in 1981. Among other restrictions, the company had to keep the releases separate.

The most recently released reports show that News UK’s two more upscale titles had a pre-tax profit of £34m in the year to June 2021 when they had 364,000 digital-only subscribers. The total was 445,000 as of June this year.

In contrast, the subsidiary that controls The Sun and Sun on Sunday posted a pre-tax loss of £51m.

The phone hacking costs will be reimbursed by another part of Murdoch’s media businesses, Fox Corporation, under an agreement made when Fox was separated from News Corp. Tony Gallagher becomes editor of the Times

Adam Bradshaw

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