Jocelyn Targett is just one of a number of people to have recently taken
a pay cut to join the leaner Observer.
He left his well-paid, chauffeur-driven position of editor of the Mail
on Sunday’s Night and Day magazine in mid-June to take up the job of
deputy editor (features) on a paper with around a third of the MoS’
sales. Like a pied piper, Targett has lured a number of top name writers
to the paper. Lynne Barber, Robert McCrum and Tom Hibbert are just a few
of those who have followed.
The move to Farringdon Road is a homecoming of sorts as his first job,
after leaving Girton College, Cambridge was on the Guardian. It was also
where he met his wife, Sunday Telegraph columnist Judy Rumbold. Targett,
who is responsible for the Observer’s Life, Preview and comment
sections, and a new supplement to be launched this autumn, says he moved
to the Observer because his ambitions lie in newspapers. His ultimate
ambition - ‘apart from wealth, happiness and all that shit’ - is to edit
the Sunday Times.
His first read of the day is the Guardian, he admires the
professionalism of the Mail and sees the Telegraph as his third read.
His love of reading newspapers and two children, aged four and one,
leave time for little else. ‘I’ve neglected my garden, I’m terrible at
DIY, I have no hobbies and I’m crap at keeping fit,’ he confesses.
But his talent for journalism has certainly compensated for any other
failings. He won the Guardian NUS Student Media Awards in 1987 and 1988
for a magazine called Parade and later Plural. Alan Rusbridger, then
features editor and now Guardian editor, ‘reluctantly’ commissioned a
piece from Targett, then invited him to edit an issue of the yet-to-be-
launched Weekend Guardian.
A contract as a features writer followed, as did a spell as a sub-editor
on the arts desk, and promotion to deputy editor of the Weekend section.
After four years at the Guardian he moved to the Sunday Times in charge
of books, arts and leisure. Four months later he was lured by Associated
Newspapers boss Sir David English to be launch editor of Night and Day.
The magazine helped MoS build its sales to over 1.2 million making it
the third-biggest Sunday behind the News of the World and the Sunday
Mirror. The Observer’s position is not so strong. With sales of 454,385,
it is the second smallest-selling Sunday paper after the Independent on
Sunday and sales are still sliding.
‘Our competition starts on Friday, continues with the Saturday papers
and on Monday because papers have large sports sections. Sundays have
lost out because they’re bigger and more expensive. The only way a
Sunday can survive is to deliver deluxe journalism that takes time,
consideration and talent,’ says Targett.
So how hands on he is? ‘More so than my colleagues would like me to be,
less so than I would like to be.’ He has focused on getting the design
of the magazine right and spent a lot of time on standfirsts, in the
belief that what people see and read first is what matters most. The
features look stronger and losing the chauffeur has its compensations:
Targett has shed much of the stone-and-a-half he gained while at the
1989 Features writer, the Guardian later deputy editor Weekend section
and arts editor
1993 Managing editor (books, arts and leisure) Sunday Times
1993 Launch editor, Night and Day Mail on Sunday
1996 Deputy editor (features) The Observer