Manchester Evening News editor Paul Horrocks announced today he is standing down after 12 years. HoldtheFrontPage publisher Paul Linford looks back on his time in charge of one of Britain’s biggest regional dailies.
For the past 12 years, Manchester Evening News editor Paul Horrocks has been a permanent fixture on a moreorless constantly changing regional press landscape, as editors came and went amid continued upheaval in the industry.
Indeed, Paul is one of what is now a very small number of regional daily editors whose appointments pre-date even the launch of HoldtheFrontPage in 2000.
He became MEN editor in the wake of one of Manchester’s biggest-ever stories – the bombing of the city by the IRA in 1996.
It would have ongoing ramifactions for the paper, not least the jail threat faced by its then crime reporter Steve Panter for refusing to reveal sources during an investigation into the atrocity.
But within a few months of Paul taking over the editor’s chair in 1997, the paper landed an arguably even bigger scoop.
Reporter Mikaela Sitford broke the astonishing story of how a small-town doctor, Harold Shipman, became Brtiain’s biggest mass murderer
Other investigations saw three conmen jailed after an MEN reporter went undercover as a telesales rep to expose a crime prevention scam.
And trading standards officers closed down two kitchen suppliers after MEN revelations about their shoddy workmanship.
Paul faced perhaps his biggest personal challenge in 2005 when he decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for charity.
The same year, the paper led tributes to Manchester’s favourite footballing son, sixties idol George Best who died aged 59.
Paul’s status as one of the best-known editors in the business was rewarded with the presidency of the Society of Editors in 2006.
He was even ranked as a more influential figure than United boss Sir Alex Ferguson in a “power list” of North-West celebrities and business leaders.
In latter years at the paper, Paul oversaw a series of innovations that made the MEN something of a trend-setter in the industry.
A revamp of the paper’s website to deliver round-the-clock news was followed by a redesign in 2005 and the move to a converged newsroom the following year.
Perhaps the most radical change of all came with the introduction of the part-free, part paid-for model, which has since been copied by a number of other daily titles.
With such a record, it seems likely that, like his predecessors Mike Unger and Brian Redhead before him, Paul will be remembered as one of the more notable regional editors of his era.