John Witherow to step down as editor of the Times

<span>Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

John Witherow has confirmed he will step down as editor of the Times after a decade in the job.

His successor will be announced on Wednesday, with sources at the newspaper suggesting Tony Gallagher, the deputy editor, has been lined up to take control.

Negotiations over the terms of Witherow’s departure have been going on for some time, with the editor on sick leave for much of 2022. The 70-year-old gathered staff together in the Times newsroom on Tuesday and told them it was time for someone with more energy to take over and inject some “fizz” into the paper.

Witherow has been with News UK for 42 years, including a combined 28 years as an editor of the Sunday Times and then its daily sister newspaper. He will remain with the company as chair of Times newspapers.

The Times was traditionally Rupert Murdoch’s loss-making but influential British newspaper. But the business has been transformed over the past decade by instituting a hard online paywall charging £26 a month for content.

A spokesperson for the company said Emma Tucker, the editor of the Sunday Times, would remain in charge of the weekend newspaper – despite internal speculation at the company linking her to a job at the Wall Street Journal.

She is seen by journalists as having a different approach to Gallagher but both the Times and the Sunday Times increasingly share resources, with some journalists working across both titles.

Gallagher, a former editor of the Daily Telegraph and of the Sun, is known for being a workaholic. If confirmed in the job, some staff in the Times newsroom predict he will seek to harden the outlet’s political coverage and shake up its editorial line. One staff member described Gallagher as “obsessed with politics” and a workaholic with “interest in nothing else apart from maybe [the restaurant] Moro and jogging”.

The Times has backed the Conservatives throughout Witherow’s leadership, although the paper’s readership contains more Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters than its editorial line may suggest. It backed Rishi Sunak for the leadership of the Conservative party, a rare case of a Murdoch outlet backing a losing candidate. Earlier this year, the outlet found itself at the centre of a scandal after the paper removed a story about the then-prime minister Boris Johnson and his wife, Carrie Johnson, after complaints from Downing Street.

Murdoch, 91, said Witherow was “one of the great editors of his generation” and said he could look back on “an outstanding career”. The outgoing editor will stand down with immediate effect.