James Harding, the youngest ever editor of the Times, has resigned after five years.
His departure was announced in an address to staff at 3.30pm, and was “at the request of News Corp”. He is due to appear on BBC’s Question Time tomorrow.
Lech Mintowt-Czyz, the paper’s news editor, tweeted: “His staff, me included, just gave him a long standing ovation.” His colleague Patrick Kidd added: “Feel immensely saddened by James Harding’s enforced resignation, like when Andrew Strauss went. Universally admired, a real positive force.”
In a statement to staff, Harding said: “It has been made clear to me that News Corporation would like to appoint a new editor of the Times. I have therefore agreed to stand down. I called Rupert this morning to offer my resignation and he accepted.”
He referenced the paper’s campaigns on cycling deaths, its coverage of child sex abuse rings and the work of his foreign and deputy editors as being memories of which he was particularly proud.
The BBC’s Robert Peston has tweeted that John Witherow will move from the Sunday Times to replace Harding, but this has not been confirmed by the company.
There are currently wider changes at News Corporation under way. Robert Thomson, the current managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, was recently named as the head of News Corporation’s new separate publishing arm. His appointment prompted the resignation of News International chief executive and Murdoch veteran Tom Mockridge, who had hoped to take on the role. News Corp has yet to announce a replacement for Mockridge. Gerard Baker, the deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal, will succeed Thomson as head of the News Corp-owned paper.
Harding was known as a cerebral and calm editor. His paper’s coverage of the hacking scandal – which affected his sister paper, the News of the World – was praised for its fairness and objectivity. It appears likely that his departure heralds more integration between the daily and Sunday operations.
In the November ABC figures, the Times‘s circulation was measured at 399,321 copies, a year-on-year fall of 3.37 per cent.