Posted By Nicole Cheney on August 9, 2012
Morgan’s is to take the Mirror more upmarket and vie for Daily Mail readers.
It is the day after the Brit Awards and Piers Morgan is holding court in his office at The Mirror. He presides, one foot up on the table, orchestrating the morning news conference and constantly flicking a biro in the air. A noisy conviviality fills the room. Opposite him sits the head of news, Richard Wallace, who, like Morgan, has risen up the executive ranks via the showbiz pages. Kevin O’Sullivan, Svengali of the “3am” girls (The Mirror’s “celebrity gossip hounds”, as The Observer recently dubbed them), is another key presence. It was he who gave Morgan his first break in journalism in the late Eighties, plucking him from obscurity on The Sun’s news desk to be a show-business reporter. Morgan went on to pioneer the “friend of the stars” gossip column, “Bizarre”. This is Fleet Street in the twenty‑first century: the people with power are those with access to celebrity stories.
Morgan runs the meeting like a football manager giving a rousing pre-match pep talk. He loves his team, and they love his sense of fun, his chutzpah. There’s no holding Piers Morgan back. Now the award winning editor of “The Mirror” plans to change the face of tabloid journalism as we know it. Matt Seaton meets him.
“We’ve got Jay Kay arguing,” announces the picture editor. Jamiroquai’s lead singer has been snapped engaging in some post-Brits misbehavior. “Harry Blotto by Jay Kay Rowing!” quips someone else. “Brilliant! That’s your headline for tomorrow!” booms Morgan. This is how the day’s news agenda is decided — in the best traditions of pub banter.
And Piers can keep it up all day. Lunch is a grand affair at the Four Seasons hotel at Canary Wharf, where he and Sir Victor Blank, chairman of The Mirror’s board, co-host a monthly meeting of people in politics and the media. Today, they entertain the Israeli ambassador, Dr Zvi Shtauber, Michael Winner, Tony Benn and former Tory spin doctor Amanda Platell. With charming vulgarity, Morgan hands me a glass of Krug: “Here, have one of these. You don’t get this at The Guardian [the paper I write for], do you?”
While his guests are tucking into their main courses, Morgan gets stuck into a cabinet minister. He berates Alan Milburn for the Health Department’s handling of the Rose Addis affair. It’s good knockabout stuff. “I want to capitalise on the excitement there is around the paper at the moment,” declares Morgan. “There is a bit of a buzz about.” Most of it seems to be coming from him.
Morgan became the youngest editor on Fleet Street when he edited the News of the World at 28. At 37, he still has a boyish air. Surprisingly tall, he has the physique and gait of a slightly out-of-condition medium-pace bowler (he enjoys a game of village cricket when he can). He wears bespoke suits, but the jacket’s never on in the office — he’s too busy marching around the newsroom, clicking his fingers.
He is a hands-on editor very much in the mould of his mentor Kelvin MacKenzie, the formidable former editor of The Sun. If you’re a reporter with a hot story, you’ll be likely to find Piers reading over your shoulder. Or he’ll just come and put a foot up on your desk and shoot the breeze for a few minutes. Where MacKenzie was a demonic genius, a brilliant ogre, Morgan is an overgrown hyperactive kid. As his best friend and former head of The Mirror’s legal department, Martin Cruddace, says, “His worst problem is that if he’s bored at all, his attention span is nil.”
Morgan has plenty to focus on.Named Newspaper of the Year at the British Press Awards for the second year running, The Mirror has been lauded for its “War on Terror” coverage. “It’s great what he did with the paper after September 11,” says Rosie Boycott, former editor of the Daily Express. “I think he gave it terrific spunk and gravitas.” “The coverage was pretty erratic at times,” comments Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian. “I think he was struggling for a consistent tone, but it was certainly ambitious, challenging and diverse.”