Until recently, the Observer newspaper prohibited Catholics and Jews from becoming Editor. Last week, Charles Moore, a convert to Rome, became editor of The Daily Telegraph. Desmond Albrow, himself a former assistant editor of The Sunday Telegraph, reports on the significance of these recent changes Editors usually mastermind the news. Just recently they have been making it. Charles Moore has left The Sunday Telegraph to take command of The Daily Telegraph following Max Hasting's decision to jump ship and to man the smaller bridge of the Evening Standard: the naval equivalent of the captain of a heavy-gunned cruiser joining a frigate. Dominic Lawson is to edit The Sunday Telegraph while the supremely witty Frank Johnson takes over the helm at the Spectator. We live in interesting newspaper times.
And what is particularly interesting to Catholic readers is the appointment of Charles Moore, a brilliant editor of the Sunday Telegraph for the past few years, and a recent convert to Rome.
His journalistic reputation in what I still call Fleet Street, and particularly at The Daily Telegraph, is of
As a stripling (he is now burdened by all of 38 years) he was a successful leaderwriter on The Daily Telegraph before leaving to edit the Spectator at an age when most of us would have been happy enough to have had a job as a reporter or subeditor.
Mr Moore has one experience that the vast majority of Catholics lack.
He went to school at Eton and inherited the better qualities of the best old Etonian.
He is also an intellectual with a Cambridge background (he cannot have the best of everything) with a non-jingoistic love of England.
In some ways, I suppose, he also shares certain journalistic talents of three other well-known Catholic journalists William Rees-Nogg, Peregrine Worsthorne and Paul Johnson. He does not have Johnson's simulated literary irascibility, but he has his flair for spotting controversy and he also has much of the charm of Worsthome.
This has helped to make him that pretty rare spedmen, a successful newspaper editor, who has gained and what is more important, retained the loyalty of his staff.
The staff of The Sunday Telegraph will take some time to forgive Max Hastings for leaving The Daily Telegraph: not for any sense of disloyalty but because it meant that they lost Charles Moore as the guide to their journalistic fortunes.
They knew and admired him as a bit of a "fogey" without being fussy, an intellectual who did not live forever in the clouds, a moralist without being prissy, a man with a sense of humour and a writer of distinction.
All these gifts, and more, will be required in his new
job. The Daily Telegraph, although the quality market leader with a circulation of more than one million, is locked in a lunatic price war (of Rupert Murdoch's making) with The Times. Moore will have to prove to the sceptics that he also possesses that sheer shirtsleeved doggedness and interest in trivia that is essential for an editor, even of the likes of The DailyTelegraph.
This is not time for faint hearts at Canary Wharf. I wish him well.
For those of us who remember the good old days of Fleet Street, the appointment of a Catholic Editor at The Daily Telegraph and a Jewish Editor (Dominic Lawson) at The Sunday Telegraph have a special significance.
We recall when the Observer, the great voice of liberalism, would not allow a Jew or a Catholic to edit the paper.