James Harding (journalist)

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James Harding
James Harding 2014-11-20 001.jpg
Harding in 2014
Born (1969-09-15) 15 September 1969 (age 53)
London, England
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge
City University
TitleDirector of News & Current Affairs, BBC News (2013–2018)
Editor, The Times (2007–2012)

James Paul Harding (born 15 September 1969) is a British journalist, and a former Director of BBC News who was in the post from August 2013 until 1 January 2018.[1][2] He is the co-founder of Tortoise Media.[3]

In December 2007, he was appointed as editor of The Times newspaper, the youngest person to assume the post,[4] following Robert Thomson's appointment as publisher of the Wall Street Journal.[4]

He left The Times in December 2012,[5] and was succeeded by John Witherow as acting editor.[6]

Early life and career[edit]

Harding was raised in north-west London, the grandson of a German Jewish refugee.[7] He was educated at two independent schools for boys: at The Hall School in Hampstead in North West London and St. Paul's School in Barnes, near Hammersmith in London,[8] followed by Trinity College, Cambridge (where he attained a First Class degree in history)[4] and City University.[9] Harding also spent a year studying at Davidson College in the United States[citation needed]. Harding won a Daiwa Scholarship in 1991, where he undertook intensive Japanese language study and worked as a speechwriter to Koichi Kato, who was Chief Secretary to the Cabinet of Japan, and for the Japan unit of the European Commission. Before entering the media, he studied Japanese at the School of Oriental and African Studies.[10]

He began his career as a journalist at the Financial Times in 1994 and two years later opened the paper's Shanghai bureau[4] where he covered the opening up of the Chinese financial markets, remaining there until 1999.[11]

Editor of The Times[edit]

After serving for three years as the Financial Times' Washington bureau chief, he joined The Times in Summer 2006 as Business Editor.[4] His promotion to editor emerged in December 2007.[12] Harding, the grandson of a German Jewish refugee,[13] was its first Jewish editor.[14] The Times, with Harding as editor, won the Newspaper of the Year Award for 2008 in March 2009 at the British Press Awards.[15] Harding was responsible for the cancellation, and then re-introduction of the Times2 supplement in October 2010 after seven months, following complaints from readers.[16]

With a reportedly unsustainable editorial budget, voluntary and compulsory redundancies were announced in June 2010, along the introduction of charges for readers for the digital edition.[17] At the end of the previous month, Harding had asserted that the Internet could "wipe out" the newspaper without a paywall being introduced.[18]

Harding said in 2011 that he "[believes] in the state of Israel. I would have had a real problem if I had been coming to a paper with a history of being anti-Israel. And, of course, Rupert Murdoch is pro-Israel.” We wrote an editorial called 'In defence of Israel' during the Gaza offensive, but we also reported on the use of white phosphorus, which was the Israelis breaking their own rules."[19] He also said at this time that the BBC does not have "a pro-Israel newsroom and it has taken management to get some balance in there". Accordingly, Harding found this "frustrating because, unlike The Times where you can just choose not to buy it, you have to pay for the BBC."[19]

Leveson and after[edit]

During his oral submission at the Leveson Inquiry on 7 February 2012, Harding apologised for the withholding of information from the High Court, without his knowledge, that Patrick Foster,[20] then a reporter on his newspaper, in 2009 had hacked into the blogger NightJack's email account in order to identify him. Richard Horton, then a Lancashire detective constable, the author, had used Nightjack as a pseudonym for his blog on policing matters.[21] He asserted that Alastair Brett, then legal manager at The Times, had kept knowledge about the hacking from him when the newspaper had successfully appealed against an injunction application in the High Court preventing publication and preserving Horton's privacy.[21] Apologising also to Horton[22] and Mr Justice Eady, who had sat at the hearing, Harding said that he only learned of the newspaper's action after the court hearing in June 2009 had taken place.[23]

Post-Leveson, Harding took on the role of negotiating with Oliver Letwin, who as Minister of State at the Cabinet Office was the Prime Minister David Cameron's representative, with the proposal of a new supervisory model for press regulation backed by a Royal charter.[24]

In an article for The Times published on 27 November 2012, he advocated a system of independent regulation, in place of the discredited system of self-regulation, and rejected statutory regulation of the press: "We must [reform] in a way that keeps Parliament and the press apart."[13] Harding also wrote: "The failure of News International to get to grips with what had happened at one of its newspapers suggested that the company had succumbed to that most dangerous delusion of the powerful, namely that it could play by its own set of rules."[13] Coming from this corporate source, Roy Greenslade thought Harding's suggestion was a "significant innovation".[25]

Departure from The Times[edit]

Harding left The Times at the end of 2012 after it had become apparent that he no longer had the support of Rupert Murdoch, or the board.[26] It was reported in The Daily Telegraph that Murdoch had objected to the way The Times had covered the News International phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World,[26] and also that Harding appeared to be an obstacle to the company's intention to merge the daily and Sunday titles into a seven-day operation.[27] It was also reported at the time that Murdoch considered Harding an "ineffective manager".[28]

His final communication to his staff,[29] was interpreted as indicating that he had not chosen to leave his post as editor.[30] He commented in July 2013, that if a "proprietor had a different view of things from the editor, I understand that the proprietor is not leaving".[31] In November 2017, Lord Puttnam, in evidence to the Competition and Markets Authority over Fox's bid to wholly own Sky, said Harding had been removed because The Times had backed President Obama in the 2012 presidential election.[32]

Head of BBC News[edit]

On 16 April 2013 his appointment as the new head of BBC News was announced, a post formerly held by Helen Boaden,[33][34] although he did not formally take up the role until August 2014.[1] In relation to his previous editorship of The Times, a commercial rival to the BBC, Ian Burrell of The Independent asserted that The Times "was among the most strident" of the BBC's critics during Harding's tenure.[35]

In his first speech to staff on 4 December 2014,[36] Harding affirmed that the BBC should not avoid investigative journalism after controversies of previous years.[37]

On 10 October 2017 it was announced that Harding would step down as head of BBC News on 1 January 2018.[2][38] He was succeeded by Fran Unsworth.[39] Harding was later reported to be working on a "new media venture" which he named Tortoise.[40] As of January 2021, the outlet has nearly 50,000 paid-for subscribers[41]

Other activities[edit]

Harding's book Alpha Dogs was published in spring 2008.[42][43] Harding speaks English, French, German, Japanese and Mandarin.[11]

He delivered the annual Cudlipp Lecture in March 2018.[44]


  1. ^ a b "Harding starts job as BBC News director", BBC News, 12 August 2013
  2. ^ a b Samson, Adam (10 October 2017). "James Harding to step down as BBC news director". Financial Times. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  3. ^ "Guardian assistant editor Merope Mills joins James Harding's Tortoise Media team with sense that 'news can be done differently'". PressGazette. October 2018. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e Stephen Glover (10 December 2007). "Changing 'Times': the challenges facing new editor James Harding". The Independent. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  5. ^ "Times newspaper editor James Harding to quit", BBC News, 12 December 2012
  6. ^ Katherine Rushton "John Witherow named acting editor of The Times as News International eyes merger", telegraph.co.uk, 18 January 2013
  7. ^ Harpin, Lee (11 October 2017). "James Harding looks forward to expressing a 'clear point of view' after quitting as BBC news director". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  8. ^ Andy McSmith (19 June 2010). "George Osborne: A silver spoon for the golden boy". The Independent. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  9. ^ Roy Greenslade (10 December 2010). "Harding, a product of City University". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  10. ^ "SOAS University of London".
  11. ^ a b Aidan Jones "Profile: James Harding", The Guardian, 7 December 2007
  12. ^ Stephen Brook "Harding to take Times top job", guardian.co.uk, 7 December 2007
  13. ^ a b c James Harding "Don’t force the press into politicians’ arms", The Times, 27 November 2012
  14. ^ Sarah Pilchick "Jewish editor of The Times resigns", The Jewish Chronicle, 12 December 2012
  15. ^ Owen Amos "British Press Awards: Times is newspaper of the year" Archived 2 June 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Press Gazette, March 2009
  16. ^ John Plunkett (11 October 2010). "Times revives Times2 supplement". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  17. ^ James Harding "Read James Harding's email on redundancies at the Times", guardian.co.uk, 8 June 2010
  18. ^ James Robinson "Times editor defends paywall plan", guardian.co.uk, 25 May 2010
  19. ^ a b Jessica Elgot "Signs of The Times at JCC", The Jewish Chronicle, 14 April 2011
  20. ^ "Times editor James Harding reappears before Leveson", telegraph.co.uk, 7 February 2012
  21. ^ a b Lisa O'Carroll "Times editor apologises to high court judge for not disclosing email hacking, guardian.co.uk, 7 February 2012
  22. ^ "Leveson Inquiry: Times editor in hacking email apology", BBC News, 7 February 2012
  23. ^ Andrew Pugh "The Times and NightJack - the whole 'terrible' story" Archived 5 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Press Gazette, 8 February 2012
  24. ^ Dan Sabbagh "Fleet Street's harmonious response to Leveson falls apart", The Guardian, 12 December 2012
  25. ^ Roy Greenslade "Harding dares to suggest a third way between state and self-regulation", guardian.co.uk, 27 November 2012
  26. ^ a b Katherine Rushton "James Harding steps down as editor of The Times", telegraph.co.uk, 12 December 2012
  27. ^ Roy Greenslade "James Harding gets a terrific send-off as staff signal their support for him", guardian.co.uk (Grenslade's blog), 13 December 2012
  28. ^ Preston, Peter (3 February 2013). "Rupert Murdoch's back – and this time he's tweeting orders". The Observer. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
  29. ^ James Harding "Times editor James Harding's resignation speech to editorial staff", guardian.co.uk, 12 December 2012
  30. ^ Lisa O'Carroll "Times editor James Harding resigns", guardian.co.uk, 12 December 2012
  31. ^ Gavriel Hollander "James Harding admits he was pushed out of The Times editor's chair", Press Gazette, 5 July 2013
  32. ^ Ponsford, Dominic (24 November 2017). "James Harding was sacked as Times editor by Rupert Murdoch because he backed Obama, CMA told". Press Gazette. Retrieved 22 December 2017.
  33. ^ Jake Kanter "James Harding scoops BBC news chief role", Broadcast, 16 April 2013
  34. ^ Josh Halliday "James Harding named BBC News chief", guardian.co.uk, 16 April 2013
  35. ^ Ian Burrell "'Honoured' to join the BBC: James Harding - the man who tore it to bits", The Independent, 16 April 2013
  36. ^ "James Harding: BBC News and Current Affairs - Our stories", BBC Media Centre, 4 December 2013
  37. ^ Newsnight's false claims concerning Lord McAlpine and the abandonment of the investigation into allegations made about Jimmy Savile, now generally accepted to be sustainable.
  38. ^ "James Harding: BBC's head of news to leave". BBC News. 10 October 2017. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  39. ^ "BBC appoints Fran Unsworth as next head of news". BBC News. 15 December 2017. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
  40. ^ "Media news". Private Eye. London: Pressdram Ltd. 27 July 2018.
  41. ^ Tobitt, Charlotte (29 January 2021). "Tortoise sees Covid 'boost' engagement and membership". Press Gazette. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  42. ^ Robert Colvile (16 August 2008). "Review: Alpha Dogs by James Harding". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  43. ^ Leonard Doyle (19 September 2008). "Alpha dogs, by James Harding : Vote-hounds at the thin end of a social wedge". The Independent. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  44. ^ Harding, Janes (22 March 2018). "James Harding's Hugh Cudlipp lecture in full". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
Media offices
Preceded by Editor of The Times
Succeeded by