London, Jan. 14: Britain’s largest selling newspaper, the Sun, has a woman editor for the first time in its 34-year history, but the lady isn’t ready to part with the topless Page Three Girl yet.
Rebekah Wade, who has already attracted considerable controversy as editor of the Sun’s sister Sunday paper, the News of the World, takes control following the resignation of David Yelland.
Yelland, a former business journalist, had edited the paper for nearly five years.
Wade, married to the actor Ross Kemp, a former star of the popular TV series EastEnders, is a fiercely ambitious journalist and networker who has never made any secret of her aim to edit the Sun.
She is said to be a favourite of the Murdoch family that owns the paper and is a close friend of Elisabeth, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s daughter.
She is also a friend of the Blairs, particularly Cherie, and is unlikely to alter the Sun’s support for Labour without prompting from Rupert Murdoch.
She used to be the paper’s deputy editor and at the time challenged Yelland to stop using Page Three Girls but she was happy to print them occasionally in the News of the World and friends said she has decided to keep them “at least for the time being” in the Sun.
This may reflect a commercial realism grounded in the spectacular circulation success of the Daily Star, a tabloid whose heavy reliance on topless women has helped it win readers from its rivals.
Sun insiders backed the official line that there was no question that Yelland, who has been winning a circulation battle against the Mirror, had been forced out by Rupert Murdoch.
Yelland will remain with Murdoch’s News International in an executive role and is being sent to the US for a management course that will be paid for by the company.
“I’ve always said I’ll give this job five years,” he said. “I’m 40 this year. I have a background in business journalism and I’ve always wanted to go into management.”
Murdoch said Yelland had had “five fabulously successful years” as the Sun’s editor. In December, the paper’s circulation increased 4.24 per cent year on year to more than 3,447,000.
Murdoch said Wade, 34, had “proven her talent as a great campaigning editor” and he was “confident she will triumph at the Sun”.