Daily Express Editor-in-Chief Gary Jones joined us at Pagefield this week to discuss his experience editing newspapers on both sides of the political spectrum, the importance of campaigning and how he plans to entice a new generation of Express readers.
Jessica Alexander outlines the five most interesting takeaways:
Re-energising the Express
Jones’ political journey from the Mirror to the Express was, in his own words, “a tricky one”. Growing up near Liverpool, and as a former card-carrying member of the Labour Party, Jones swapped not just his desk in 2018, but his newspapers natural political leaning when he made the switch to the Express, which had just been acquired by the Trinity Mirror Group from Richard Desmond.
For years, The Daily Express was known for its very select front cover topics: the Royal Family, health and, infamously, the weather. Immediately upon joining, Jones took the opportunity to refresh and re-energise editorial content and direction. Confident he is bringing back a focused news agenda, Jones stated, “If this was a climbing Everest type thing, I don’t think I’ve landed in Kathmandu yet. This is going to take some time to build.”
Campaigning is key
At a time when Brexit leaves scarce column inches for other news, we are seeing less and less traditional newspaper campaigns. According to Jones, there is a huge need following our eventual departure from the EU for newspapers and businesses alike to reclaim the lobbying mantel and spark conversations around socioeconomic issues which have been neglected for the past three years.
Jones revealed that social mobility is an issue he is very passionate about and that there is a dire need to resolve, particularly in the workplace, where a number of young adults who haven’t attended university or college are filtered out of the hiring process almost instantly. It’s something he seeks to actively address when recruiting young journalists.
Business and personal finance pages stocks remain high
The Express attracts a Middle-England audience of articulate, straight-talking readers, who are sensible savers, have good pensions, take around four holidays a year and are probably spending around £25,000 on a car. This savvy audience often relies on the paper’s influential personal finance and business pages.
In response to a question about whether the future for the business page is bleak, Jones highlighted the City as the driving force of this nation. He adds, Brexit has distracted from positivity, but it is the government’s role to collaborate and communicate better with business as “it is bloody tough out there.”
Being a voice for those without one
One of Jones’ key missions is to capture what Express readers want and to be a unified voice for those thousands of people who buy and read the paper’s content – online and in print. Recognising the importance of editorials in newspapers, Jones adds “the day we don’t have a voice is the day we don’t have democracy”. He praises the likes of City A.M. and the Telegraph for informative and diverse editorial views.
…And modulating those whose are too loud
Back in the day, if readers didn’t like the paper’s content, they would often write a green-ink letter to the Editor expressing their dissatisfaction or alternative views. With online news and social media, managing reader engagement has become much more complex, with reader comments requiring strict and full-time moderation – something which Jones takes very seriously.
Despite this challenge Jones ends the event by reassuring the room that his readers are “loyal, caring and passionate [people] who believe strongly in their democracy and country.”