William Lewis (journalist)


William Lewis (born 2 April 1969)[2] is a British media executive and was formerly chief executive of Dow Jones and Company and publisher of The Wall Street Journal. Earlier in his career he was known as a journalist and then editor.

William Lewis
Born (1969-04-02) 2 April 1969 (age 52)
NationalityBritish
EducationWhitefield School
Alma mater
OccupationFormer CEO of Dow Jones and Company
Known forPublishing the story which led to the United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal; Role as executive member of News Corp's Management and Standards Committee following the News International phone hacking scandal
Board member ofAssociated Press[1]
Spouse(s)
Rebecca Slater
(m. 1995)
Children4
RelativesSimon Lewis (brother)

While Editor of the Daily Telegraph,[3] Lewis led the team that broke the story of the MPs' expenses scandal, which led to the resignation of the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, a further six government ministers and the creation of Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.[4]

From September 2010[5] to July 2011, Lewis worked as General Manager of the newspaper publisher News International, playing a role in the company's response to the phone hacking crisis. In July 2011, following the closure of the News of the World, Lewis left News International to join the Management and Standards Committee, an independent division led by Lord Grabiner QC, created by the News Corp board to orchestrate cooperation with multiple law enforcement investigations into News International.

Early life and career


William Lewis was born and raised in Hampstead Garden Suburb, North London, England. His father David Lewis M.B.E,[6] worked as a Managing Director of a packaging company and his mother Sally was a teacher. Lewis's primary education was at Brookland Junior school in Hampstead Garden Suburb. His secondary education was at Whitefield school, a comprehensive school in the London Borough of Barnet. After achieving his A levels, Lewis studied for a BSc in Politics and Economics at Bristol University, where he wrote for the student newspaper, Epigram,[2] and captained the University 1st football team. Following university Lewis completed a postgraduate diploma in Periodical Journalism at City University.

In 1991, Lewis was hired as a finance reporter by The Mail on Sunday.[7] In 1994 he left the tabloid to take a job in the Financial Times' investigative unit. He later became fund management correspondent and then mergers and acquisitions correspondent.[7] In 1999, while posted at the New York office he broke the story of the ExxonMobil merger,[8] the biggest industrial merger in US corporate history. The scoop surprised the US business media and helped establish the Financial Times in the US.[9] Following this Lewis was promoted to Global News Editor.[10] He was then poached to become Business Editor at The Sunday Times, where he remained for three years, from 2002 to 2005.

Telegraph Media Group


Lewis joined the Telegraph Media Group as city editor in August 2005 and was made deputy editor of The Telegraph while he was still working out his notice from The Sunday Times. In October 2006 he became The Daily Telegraph's youngest ever editor.[11] On joining The Telegraph, Lewis described the newspaper as a "shambles", with "no innovation, no culture of improvement, no understanding of the need to perform, of needing to work with your colleagues rather than be at war with them."[12]

As editor he took control of the newspaper during period of tumultuous change thanks to the decline in print sales and display advertising revenue.[13] Lewis designed the layout of The Telegraph's new Victoria newsroom[14] and saw through the modernisation program which involved senior staff cuts. The move was initially felt to be in conflict with the newspaper's brand and aging readership.[14]

In 2007 he was made editor-in-chief of TMG.[8]

During his time as editor, he also attempted a broader debate at The Telegraph about the environment. While the newspapers and website continued to house global warming deniers such as Christopher Booker and James Delingpole,[15] he also recruited Geoffrey Lean, the environmental commentator to write a weekly column and lead the Telegraph's global warming coverage.[16]

Role in the parliamentary expenses scandal


Lewis's involvement in the scandal began when he was told by colleagues that they had been approached by an intermediary on behalf of a source who said that they had four years' worth of MPs' data copied onto a disk. After establishing that the paper would not be breaking the law by accepting the disc, and that the story was in the public interest, Lewis approved negotiation with the intermediary.[17]

In 2012, Lewis told the Leveson Inquiry: "the reason [the source] had come to the Telegraph was he wanted to ensure fair and balanced coverage. He wanted to be certain that the Labour MPs and the Conservative MPs all had their chance to have their day in the sun, as it were."[18] The intermediary, a former SAS officer John Wick,[3] had already offered the story to a number of other newspapers, all of whom had been reluctant to take the risk of publishing, or meet the price set by Wick.[3]

Once Lewis's team concluded negotiations with the source, the Telegraph team had only ten days to investigate the data on the disk which meant wading through more than a million documents.[19] Once Lewis saw the information on the disc he realised that he had to run the story. Lewis told Lord Leveson: "I became very aware that it was my responsibility to bring this to the public domain. It was no longer going to be a choice for me as editor."[17][20]

Lewis stressed to his colleagues that he wanted the Telegraph to be seen as be fair and balanced in their approach. They concluded that they should start with the government and then move into the opposition as it was then, the Conservative Party.[18]

The next stage involved the team writing to each MP to put them on notice that a story was being written, and then to wait for the replies. The first MP to revert to the Telegraph team was Secretary of State for Justice Jack Straw.[17] Straw replied, confirming the information in the letter and explaining his expenses. Lewis told the Leveson enquiry: "Only then did I feel able to give the green light to publication that evening." He added, "I remain hugely proud of -- given the intensity with which the MPs' expenses team had to work, the incredible pressure they worked under, continual threat of trying to be stopped what they were doing, I think this record is one we should be proud of."[17] He added: "I was also aware that this story was laced with risk all round, as the best and most important journalism tends to be.[20]

Aftermath of parliamentary expenses scandal

The publication of the story led to the resignation of the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, a further six government ministers and the creation of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.[21] A police investigation into the leak was called off in May 2009. A statement issued by Scotland Yard said that although the unauthorised disclosure of information appeared to "breach public duty", much of the information was in the process of being prepared for release under the Freedom of Information Act.[22]

In 2009, Lewis spoke publicly for the first time about the scandal in a BBC Radio 4 Interview with the BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson.[23] In the interview Lewis responded to claims by that his newspaper's coverage had irreparably damaged parliament and democracy as "Absolute, complete rubbish." In the interview Lewis claimed: "It is going to open up parliament to a whole new generation of people who understand what it means to be a representative of British citizens," he said. He described the removal of criminal MPs from Parliament as "undeniably a good thing for the United Kingdom."

In a 2017 in an interview with the Evening Standard,[24] Lewis said: "I think MPs' expenses began that disgust with the political class. Brexit has to be seen within that context. If the House of Lords is our main defence against stupidity, that doesn't make me very happy."

In 2019, Lewis appeared on BBC documentary marking the 10th anniversary of the scandal.[25] Lewis talked about establishment hostility towards the Telegraph newsroom and mentioned a brief meeting with HM Queen wherein she indicated her support and sympathy for the story. Lewis has never disclosed the details of the conversation.

In a 2019 New Statesmen article[26] Lewis wrote that the scandal was a missed opportunity: "The chance to make radical reforms to our political institutions and how they operate was, however, glaringly (and deliberately) overlooked…. Perhaps the fallout from Brexit will trigger the root-and-branch reform we need before these challenges can ever hope to be met with the sort of honesty, energy and imagination they demand. Optimistic, perhaps, but real change could be achieved if politicians from across the spectrum – or people from around Britain who have not previously been involved in politics – begin to share a proper understanding of where the national interest lies and where it will lie in the very near future."

Departure from the Telegraph Group


In the summer of 2009, Lewis took a two-month sabbatical from TMG to attend the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School – a compressed version of the college's famed Masters in Business Administration. Towards the end of this period Lewis was joined by TMG chief executive Murdoch MacLennan who stayed to hammer out Lewis's future at TMG.[24][27]

In November 2009, Lewis returned to the UK, and founded Euston Partners, a digital development division based in Euston, London, staffed by a team of Telegraph employees.[28] The aim of the division was to find a way for newspapers to make money from the emerging App economy.[29] In January 2010 Lewis took the title of Managing Director Digital, while retaining his position of group editor in chief. Shortly after this he gave up the daily running of Sunday and Daily Telegraph. He was succeeded in the editor's chair by Tony Gallagher in late 2009, but remained editor-in-chief.[30]

At the 2010 British Press Awards, The Telegraph was named the "National Newspaper of the Year" for its coverage of the MPs' expenses scandal (named "Scoop of the Year"), with Lewis winning "Journalist of the Year" for his role.[31]

Accepting his award Lewis said: "If there was ever a story that proved that news still sells newspapers I suspect this was it."[32]

Despite this success, all was not well within TMG. Lewis wanted to create a standalone business with a "start-up mentality" from the digital unit, whereas MacLennan wanted the Euston-based project to remain within his control at TMG.[33][34] Unable to come to an agreement with MacLennan, Lewis departed on May 5, 2010,[35] just six months. The split was described in the press as "amicable" but that Maclennan had been "impatient to see results". TMG said they would continue to maintain the digital division.[36]

News International


In September 2010 Lewis was hired by News International as group general manager. A key part of this new role was to modernise the company and create streamlined digital newsrooms as he had done at TMG.[37][38]

Almost immediately on joining, an article in The New York Times caused the ongoing issue of illegal phone message interception by the News of the World to flare up.[39] Towards the end of 2010, Lewis was informed that the company was facing a large number of civil actions relating to phone hacking.[40] On 10 January, Lewis sent out a formal instruction to the IT staff at News International that all evidence relevant to various civil and criminal actions was to be retained on News International's email servers.[41][42]

Lewis remained as general manager as the crisis grew. In the aftermath of revelations by The Guardian that News Of the World reporters had deleted voicemails of the murdered school girl, Milly Dowler, the News of the World was closed.[43]

He stepped down as group general manager in July 2011 to take a role as an executive member of the Management and Standards Committee, an independent division of News Corp mandated by the board to cooperate fully with all authorities investigating wrongdoing at News International.[44]

Management and Standards Committee


The formal establishment of the Management and Standards Committee was confirmed on July 18, 2011. The MSC was chaired by Lord Grabiner QC, a senior commercial lawyer, taking legal advice from the law firm Linklaters. The MSC reported directly to News Corp board members Joel Klein and Viet Dinh. Both Dinh and Klein were former US Assistant Attorney Generals. Lewis, was named in the press release as a "full time executive member.[45][46]

The Terms of Reference were published on 21 July 2011.[47] "The MSC was authorised to cooperate fully with all relevant investigations and inquiries in the News of the World phone hacking case, police payments and all other related issues across News International, as well as conducting its own enquiries where appropriate."

The MSC included 100 legal staff from Linklaters, as well as forensic advisers from PricewaterhouseCoopers. Their role was to review all law enforcement requests for evidence and comply if those requests were relevant to the various ongoing investigations.[48]

Metropolitan Police Service investigations Operation Weeting (phone hacking) and Operation Elveden (corruption of public officials) resulted in a string of arrests of News International journalists from October 2011 to Mid 2012, prompting complaints from Sun staff that the paper was subject to a "witch hunt."[49] Though no Sun journalists were successfully convicted by Operation Elveden, News of the World feature writer Dan Evans received a 10-month suspended sentence. Operation Weeting successfully convicted News of the World journalists Neville Thurlbeck and Greg Miskiw who were both sentenced to six months in prison. Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson received an 18-month sentence.[50][51]

As of 20 July 2012, Lewis began the process of departing the MSC.[38]

Vince Cable leak allegation

In December 2010, Daily Telegraph reporters secretly recorded the UK Business Secretary Vince Cable making a number of unguarded remarks about the UK government and also his view that "we have declared war on Murdoch". The Telegraph reported the remarks about government, but did not publish his views on Murdoch. These views were controversial, because Cable was overseeing in a sub-judicial role the bid by Murdoch's News Corporation for all of BSkyB. The remarks about Murdoch were leaked to the BBC's Business Editor, Robert Peston.[52][53] He broadcast them, to the consternation of The Telegraph and of Cable who was forced to step aside from his oversight of the BSkyB bid.

Despite the fact that the subject of the transcript was clearly in the public interest, Telegraph management hired the detective agency Kroll to find the source of the leak.[54][55]

In July 2011, Reuters reported that the corporate investigations firm Kroll had "strong reasons" to suspect that Lewis had been involved in the leak to Peston. The leaks took place three months after Lewis left the Telegraph. They were seen to be of commercial benefit to News Corporation, the parent company of News International, in relation to the News Corporation takeover bid for BSkyB. Kroll interviewed several Telegraph journalists, and examined their email and phone records, but was unable to determine which disgruntled journalists decided to blow the whistle on the Telegraph's decision not to publish the Cable comments on Murdoch.

Reuters also reported that Kroll had identified that TMG's information security systems were porous and too many people had access to the relevant systems for the leaker to be pinpointed.[56] Kroll advised The Telegraph that because of the number of people who had access to databanks (which included employees for telecoms giant BT) a continued investigation would be unlikely to produce a conclusive result. Kroll did not interview Lewis in the course of the investigation. Kroll's own admission the evidence they had gathered was circumstantial and pointed to 15 separate people at The Telegraph had access to the Cable audio file.[56][54]

Despite the inconclusive nature of the investigation, Telegraph editors flew out to America to brief The New York Times, a commercial rival of News Corp.[57] On 22 July, a piece ran in The New York Times titled: "Suspicions About Former Editor in Battle Over Story Complicate hacking Scandal". The piece, carried the allegation, without evidence, that Lewis was behind the leak.[54]

Lewis responded to The New York Times: "This is a clear attempt to undermine the strong working relationship between News Corp.'s Management and Standards Committee and the Metropolitan Police Service. Nothing will prevent us from continuing to cooperate fully with Operation Weeting."[54]

Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal


Lewis was appointed interim CEO of Dow Jones and Company on 21 January 2014.[58]

On 9 May 2014 Lewis was confirmed as CEO of Dow Jones and Company, and publisher of The Wall Street Journal, following the departure of previous CEO Lex Fenwick in 2014.[59] Lewis had responsibility for the publication of the Wall Street Journal, America's largest newspaper by paid circulation; Factiva, the business information and research tool; Barron's, the weekly magazine and Dow Jones Financial News and Newswires. He has focused on modernising the Wall Street Journal newsroom, and developing the technology and data businesses.[60]

Since 2014 the company has experienced growth in readership and revenues, most recently Dow Jones reported 6% growth in 2019 News Corp results.[61] Dow Jones Risk & Compliance data business reported 22% revenue growth in the third quarter of fiscal 2019. During his tenure, the WSJ won a Pulitzer Prize[62] for uncovering President Trump's relationship with Michael Cohen and payoffs to the adult movie actress, Stormy Daniels.

In an interview with The New York Times he commented on his leadership approach: "I think that the chief executive or leader should often be the agitator in chief as well... You constantly think about the next iteration of the model and structure."[63]

In 2017 the company announced a partnership with the UK's National Theatre to support international engagement for the Theatre company.[64]

Criticism of Google and Facebook

Lewis has regularly made the case for professional media and has criticised technology companies for contributing to the rise of fake news.

In a panel at the Cannes Lions in 2015 he said that: "the issue for us, and I think the broader industry, is do we run headless chicken-like towards offers from companies like Apple and Facebook to put our content in their walled gardens?. Or do we pause and think together about what the most appropriate way of dealing with these opportunities are and make sure that we don't repeat the mistakes of the past? Professionally created news is of incredible importance in society and has deep moral purpose".[65]

In a 2016 interview with Ian Burrell of The Drum magazine, Lewis accused Facebook and Google of "killing news" commenting that he spent years "badgering away" at Google and Facebook, trying to persuade them to change their news distribution methods. "We kept warning them, saying 'This is an accident waiting to happen – you are treating fake news in the same way as you are treating Wall Street Journal news. This is going to end up biting you.' And so here it is, biting them![66]

In an interview with the Evening Standard in 2017 he commented: "Everyone can now see very clearly the grave problem with fake news. Google has played an incredibly destructive role. And when professional media disappears, bad things follow".[24]

Lewis has since led negotiations with Apple[67] and Facebook.[68] In a newsroom meeting about the WSJ deal with Apple News plus Lewis said that the deal "will enable us to get our journalism in front of millions of people who may never have paid for our journalism before."[69]

In October 2019, News Corp signed a deal with Facebook who agreed to pay a licensing fee to carry WSJ news on its platform.

Support for diversity

As part of a 2016 review into its hiring and compensation practices, Dow Jones retained an outside consultancy, Willis Towers Watson.[70] Lewis vowed to address all pay disparities within the company.[71] In an email to employees he wrote: "Any pay disparity relating to an employee's race or gender is troubling and inconsistent with the standards I strive to maintain at Dow Jones. We must, as a matter of urgency, address these issues head on."[72] In a lecture to Cass Business School Lewis said: "Perhaps the most important role of being a good CEO is making sure you have the right people – with the most diverse backgrounds – in the most important jobs inside the company. I can tell you from personal experience that the more diverse a culture, the better the ideas and the increased likelihood of success."[73]

China tensions

In February 2020 China threatened that it would expel three Wall Street Journal staff following an opinion piece published on February 3 titled "The Real Sick Man of Asia”. The piece was critical of the Chinese government's secretive and slow response to the Coronavirus crisis.[74]

China's announcement that it would expel the three journalists followed one day after the Trump administration redesignated five major Chinese news organizations as government not journalistic entities.[75]

On February 19, Lewis responded, stating that while he regretted the upset caused, "The need for quality, trusted news reporting from China is greater than ever; today’s decision to target our News department journalists greatly hinders that effort."[74]

Following the expulsion threat, four dozen Wall Street Journal journalists based in China, under pressure from the Chinese authorities, wrote a letter to Lewis asking him to correct the headline and apologize to the Journal's readers as well as others who might be offended by it.

Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, passed on a Chinese Government demand that the Wall Street Journal "recognize the seriousness of the error, openly and formally apologize, and investigate and punish those responsible, while retaining the need to take further measures against the newspaper.”[75]

Lewis did not apologize.[76]

Resignation from Dow Jones

Lewis resigned as CEO on 8 April 2020.[76] In an official company statement News Corp Chief Executive Robert Thomson said, "Will Lewis has overseen a remarkable period of growth and digital transformation at Dow Jones, making it the finest news and professional information business in the world."[76] Lewis was quoted in the press coverage as saying that his departure from the company was amicable and that he was looking forward to spending more time with his family in London. He was replaced by Almar Latour.[77]

In May 2020 he appeared in a shortlist alongside three other candidates to become Director-General of the BBC in succession to Tony Hall, Baron Hall of Birkenhead.[78]

Recognition


  • Journalist of the Year at the UK Press Awards, 2010
  • Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from Bristol University July 2010[79]
  • Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Lincoln September 2010[80]
  • Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science from Cass Business School, 2019.[81]

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Media offices
Preceded by
Sarah Sands
Deputy Editor of The Daily Telegraph
with Neil Darbyshire

2005–2006
Succeeded by
Ian MacGregor
Preceded by
John Bryant
Editor of The Daily Telegraph
2006–2009
Succeeded by
Tony Gallagher