Dropping the Captain: the short but eventful editorship of Louis McRedmond at the Irish Independent, 1968-70.
Horgan, John (2014) Dropping the Captain: the short but eventful editorship of Louis McRedmond at the Irish Independent, 1968-70. Irish Communication Review, 14 (1). pp. 80-90. ISSN 0791-0010
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RECENT EVENTS BOTH BEFORE AND AFTER the publication of Lord Justice Leveson’s Report into regulatory aspects of the newspaper industry in Britain have tended to concentrate on ethical and professional issues as manifested in the practices of a substantial number of British national papers. Of less immediate concern – but, it could be argued, of some significance in the longer term – has been the relationship between proprietors and editors. It can reasonably be suggested that because the issues surrounding journalism practice are at least as cultural as they are legal or regulatory, and because culture within organisations flows down from the top rather than seeps up from the bottom, these relationships are deserving of further study than they have received to date. In the specific British context, the role of the effective proprietor of the News International group of newspapers has been evident in two sharply contrasting ways: in Mr Murdoch’s doughty, if behind-the-scenes, defence of Rebekah Wade, until the pressure of events forced her resignation from the editorship of the News of the World; and in the extraordinary removal of the editor of The Times, James Harding, and his replacement by James Witherow – actions carried out without the prior approval of that newspaper’s independent directors, whose rights to oversee and approve such dismissals and appointments had been specifically written into the agreement by which Mr. Murdoch had assumed ownership and control of these newspapers.
The appointment and dismissal of editors of national newspapers is, with few exceptions, a process remarkable, on either side of the Irish Sea, for its opacity. As important questions of reputation are involved, this is perhaps to be expected; but it is still remarkable that an industry which demands so much transparency of others manages, in this respect at least, to keep its cards so close to its chest. This essay is an attempt to elucidate and document, on the basis of a previously unavailable collection of papers, the issues involved in such a process in the case of the appointment and dismissal of one Irish national newspaper editor almost half a century ago. Whether they are relevant to today’s controversies is for others to decide.
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