No more Mr Nice Guy: What Sun staff and readers can expect from new editor Tony Gallagher

Chris Boffey is a former news editor of the Observer, Sunday Telegraph and the Mirror and onetime special adviser to the Labour government.

On 21 January last year David Dinsmore and Tony Gallagher met for breakfast. They were the two most successful newspaper editors of the time. Dinsmore running the Sun and Gallagher in charge at the Daily Telegraph.

New Sun editor Tony Gallagher

A couple of hours later Gallagher was out of work, sacked by the Telegraph after losing out in a power battle with content editor Jason Seiken who had been brought in from the US. It became apparent that the hierarchy at the Telegraph were going going ho for the brave new online world and Gallagher was deemed to be too old school.

Gallagher was still bitter at being fired a couple of months later when he reduced Prince Philip to silence at a media industry reception. The Duke of Edinburgh asked Gallagher where he worked and was told that he was moving from the Telegraph to the Daily Mail. "Why on earth would you do that?" Gallagher replied tersely: "Because the Telegraph sacked me."

Even the thick-skinned Prince had enough nous not to pour any more salt into the wound and moved on. Gallagher had enjoyed being an editor and most of the industry recognised his ability even if his abrasive management style had its detractors. Going back to his alma mater as a deputy editor was a good move but after being number one, joint second was never going to be enough and the Mail became top heavy with executives all wanting to succeed Paul Dacre.

Dinsmore and Gallagher are good friends and kept in touch and in the last few weeks there have been more breakfast meetings culminating in Gallagher taking over from his pal as editor of the Sun while Dinsmore moves upstairs to be chief operating officer alongside Rebekah Brooks, controversially brought back by Rupert Murdoch to be CEO of news UK.

Dinsmore was a good editor of the Sun, a more avuncular figure than most of his predecessors and the right man to steady the ship after the controversy of hacking and payments to public officials that landed reporters and executives in the dock. He was also an insider who knew the company from top to bottom and had few enemies in an industry where it is easier to make enemies than friends.

But the word on the street was that the Sun was getting too nice. No one wanted to upset reporters, subs and executives still angry at how the company treated its staff when the police knocked on the door. The edge was missing.

Bringing in Gallagher, an outsider, is a calculated risk aimed at bringing back the sharpness and building on the foundations laid by Dinsmore, but it is a big risk. The new editor is the first to be top man at both a red top tabloid and a broadsheet and even his schooling at the Mail may not be enough.

When Gallagher gets into the editor's chair no one will outwork him. He will be in first and last to leave and the line between the news desk and the editor's office will be red hot. He will demand exclusives from his senior men and women and they will be left in no doubt that they have to deliver.

Gallagher shook up the Telegraph when he took over, sacking long-standing staff and not giving a jot about his position in the popularity stakes. I suspect there might be more of the same at the Sun.

There is no doubting Gallagher's ability and work ethic but in the almost 30 years he has been in national newspapers I have not heard anyone remark on his sense of fun and that is the characteristic that often makes the Sun stand out from its competitors.

Dinsmore was very aware of the fun factor and has always said how important it was for the paper to be witty without being trite. Gallagher may find that being editor of the current bun is no joke.

Chris Boffey is a former news editor of the Observer, Sunday Telegraph and the Mirror and onetime special adviser to the Labour government

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