Those who have worked with Lloyd Embley, Group Editor-in-Chief at Trinity Mirror and Gary Jones, Editor of the Sunday Mirror and Sunday People describe the pair as “both charming and frightening in equal measure”, so we were delighted to welcome this formidable double-act to the Pagefield office on Thursday evening.
Over an intimate, but sparky, roundtable dinner, the pair divulged tales from the tabloid frontline, and how the media landscape has transformed in the 20-odd years they’ve spent at Trinity Mirror, Britain’s largest newspaper group.
The following five points are what we could print. For everything else, it’s best to ask me after a couple of drinks at Pagefield’s next Negroni Party (24th November for those with their diary to hand).
- Navigating the modern exposé: Just two weeks after the Sunday Mirror revealed that Labour MP Keith Vaz was using male escorts, Embley and Jones talked about the process behind the scandal, which led to the MP’s resignation. While there was intense debate around whether the scrutiny into Vaz’s private life was justified, both Embley and Jones maintained that the story was firmly a matter of public interest, given Vaz’s role as Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee. “We were incredibly careful not to include any descriptive or judgemental language in the article. We used the term ‘prostitutes’ in the headline rather than ‘male prostitutes’ or ‘male escorts’ as the story wasn’t about outing someone,” Embley said, “but we thought it was interesting that the next day some of the broadsheets ran with ‘rent boys’ headlines.”
- The changing role of tabloids: This shift in tabloid behaviour, post-Leveson inquiry, is both necessary and welcome, Embley and Jones admitted, although Jones said he regrets “the stories he didn’t uncover” rather than the ones he did. “I’m very proud of the work I did while I was at News of the World,” Jones said. “We did some ground-breaking work uncovering paedophiles’ use of internet chat rooms, which we took to Scotland Yard. They didn’t even have a computer at the time.”
- Brexit behaviour: As the conversation inevitably moved to the fallout of Brexit, Embley reflected to what extent the Mirror ‘led or reflected’ the debate. While for other tabloids and broadsheets it was clear which side they would take, “we had the hardest position of any paper,” Embley affirmed. “We chose not to come out strongly for Remain early on as many of our readers weren’t there yet. We didn’t want to scare them, to put it simply. In the end we took the decision to speak out as we truly believed that it would be Mirror readers who were most adversely affected by a Leave result.”
- Still a Labour paper… While Jones and Embley denied they would change the paper’s colours anytime soon in a Sun-style turn, both expressed some doubt over Jeremy Corbyn’s ability to win an election. “There are a chunk of readers who love him,” Embley revealed. “Not that it makes him or his team any easier to deal with,” Jones added, “there is simply no-one in the Labour party who can challenge Theresa May at the moment.”
- …But will give Conservatives credit where it’s due: Embley and Jones both spoke about the Mirror’s decision to support David Cameron’s policy of gay marriage, “it wasn’t about it being a Conservative or Labour policy, it was simply about it being the right thing to do,” Embley said. It’s this commitment to ‘doing the right thing’ that both editors cite as the reason behind their lengthy tenures (Embley has been with Trinity Mirror for 22 years and Jones 20 years, respectively). “We’ve both been offered other positions and more money, but I believe in the Mirror and what it’s trying to do over any other newspaper.” Embley said. “Journalists may be dysfunctional individuals but we do actually believe in making the world a better place,” Jones concluded.