Posted By Nicole Cheney on August 10, 2012
Morgan has also reversed The Mirror’s longterm decline in circulation (now at a steady 2.2 million). By contrast, The Sun, though still far outselling The Mirror, is shedding readers. Morgan can barely contain his glee at the expense of his arch-rival, David Yelland. And where Yelland shuns the public eye, Morgan could showboat for England.
He recently appeared in court to defend his paper against Naomi Campbell, who was suing for breach of confidence. Campbell won modest damages but both sides recognised that The Mirror was entitled to publish details of her drug abuse.
Morgan has made much of his paper’s new “get tough with celebs” policy, but a vital part of the mix remains the “3am” girls (Jessica Callan and Eva Simpson). The 3am formula combines traditional “friends of the stars” photos with risque tittle-tattle. Its tone is cheekier, less fawning, than previous showbiz columns, but the girls also get scoops—notably, the Chelsea Clinton “I’m miserable at Oxford” story and, more recently, Kate Moss’ pregnancy. Their success has spawned a host of imitators. The Daily Mail launched a new gossip column that shamelessly borrowed the 3am phrase “wicked whispers”.
The Mail, in turn, is in Morgan’s sights. He intends to take The Mirror upmarket, and so vie for the Daily Mail’s readers. The Mirror’s loyal, Old Labour readership is, to put it bluntly, dying off at a rate of 30,000 a year; Morgan needs younger readers, and women readers. “I’m fortunate to edit the paper at a time when there are more students than ever. Certainly, they would have looked at an issue like the War on Terror and instinctively agreed with almost everything we were saying,” he argues. “I empathize with that mindset much more easily than perhaps the one I had myself 20 years ago: the young Thatcher boy.”
Morgan has hired new columnists from the broadsheets and plans to ditch the traditional “red top” masthead. Rosie Boycott, who similarly tried to reposition the Express, counsels caution: “The Mail is dominant. To bring The Mirror upmarket a bit is great. But to abandon the tabloid market is a dodgy ambition.”
Piers Morgan’s roots are in fact precisely in Daily Mail-reading Middle England. His parents live in the village of Newick, East Sussex, where they run a catering business. His natural father died when he was one year old. When he was five, his mother married Glynne Pughe Morgan, whom Piers considers his father. Brought up in pubs run by his parents, Piers went to prep school at Cumnor House in Sussex, but when the time came to move to secondary school, money was short so he went to the local comprehensive. He was offered a place at Warwick University, but chose Harlow Technical College as the swiftest way into newspapers. “My mum remembers me wanting to be a journalist even when I was under 10,” he says.
Morgan: “If I was offered the managership of Arsenal, I’d take it in a flash.” Arsenal: “If there was a vacancy in the ladies team, we might start him there”