James Harding (journalist)

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James Harding in 2014

James Paul Harding (born 15 September 1969) is a British journalist, and was the Director of BBC News from August 2013 until 1 January 2018.[1][2]

In December 2007, he was appointed as editor of The Times newspaper, the youngest person to assume the post,[3] following Robert Thomson's appointment as publisher of the Wall Street Journal.[3]

He left The Times in December 2012,[4] and was succeeded by John Witherow as acting editor.[5]

Early life and career[edit]

Harding was raised in north-west London, the grandson of a German Jewish refugee.[6] 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,[7] followed by Trinity College, Cambridge (where he attained a First Class degree in history)[3] and City University.[8] 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.[9]

He began his career as a journalist at the Financial Times in 1994 and two years later opened the paper's Shanghai bureau[3] where he covered the opening up of the Chinese financial markets, remaining there until 1999.[10]

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.[3] His promotion to editor emerged in December 2007.[11] Harding, the grandson of a German Jewish refugee,[12] was its first Jewish editor.[13] The Times, with Harding as editor, won the Newspaper of the Year Award for 2008 in March 2009 at the British Press Awards.[14] Harding was responsible for the cancellation, and then re-introduction of the Times2 supplement in October 2010 after seven months, following complaints from readers.[15]

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.[16] At the end of the previous month, Harding had asserted that the internet could "wipe out" the newspaper without a paywall being introduced.[17]

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... 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."[18] 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."[18]

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,[19] 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.[20] 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.[20] Apologising also to Horton[21] 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.[22]

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.[23]

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."[12] 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."[12] Coming from this corporate source, Roy Greenslade thought Harding's suggestion was a "significant innovation".[24]

Leaves 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.[25] 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,[25] 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.[26] It was also reported at the time that Murdoch considered Harding an "ineffective manager".[27]

His final communication to his staff,[28] was interpreted as indicating that he had not chosen to leave his post as editor.[29] 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".[30] 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.[31]

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,[32][33] although he did not formally take up the post until the following August.[1] His previous role as an editor for a commercial rival to the BBC meant that The Times leader articles during his five years as the newspaper's editor were analysed. Ian Burrell of The Independent asserted that The Times "was among the most strident" of the BBC's critics during this period.[34]

In his first speech to staff on 4 December,[35] Harding reaffirmed that the BBC should not avoid investigative journalism after controversies of recent years.[36] In some respects, the News part of the BBC fails to "punch our weight", he believed.[37] A 'new impact fund' is to be created to sustain journalists from different parts of the corporation (local, national and international) working together under the new head of newsgathering, Jonathan Munro.[38] Harding said that he would announce plans, under Delivering Quality First,[39] to make £20 million in budget cuts.[38] Where saving will be made public in the second half of 2014.[37]

The current worldwide audience for BBC News is about 250 million and Harding aims to double it by 2022.[40] Emily Bell, in The Guardian, thought Harding's objectives were "a little dated and underpowered" and the target of reaching 500 million people: "As [the BBC is] Britain's only global media [player], this seems an unambitiously low bar."[41]

On 10 October 2017, it was announced that James Harding will cease being the head of BBC News on 1 January 2018.[2][42] He was succeeded by Fran Unsworth.[43]

Other activities[edit]

Harding's book Alpha Dogs was published in spring 2008.[44][45] Harding speaks English, French, German, Japanese and Mandarin.[10]

He delivered the annual Cudlipp Lecture in March 2018.[46]


  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. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ "Times newspaper editor James Harding to quit", BBC News, 12 December 2012
  5. ^ Katherine Rushton "John Witherow named acting editor of The Times as News International eyes merger", telegraph.co.uk, 18 January 2013
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Andy McSmith (19 June 2010). "George Osborne: A silver spoon for the golden boy". The Independent. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  8. ^ Roy Greenslade (10 December 2010). "Harding, a product of City University". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  9. ^ "SOAS University of London". 
  10. ^ a b Aidan Jones "Profile: James Harding", The Guardian, 7 December 2007
  11. ^ Stephen Brook "Harding to take Times top job", guardian.co.uk, 7 December 2007
  12. ^ a b c James Harding "Don’t force the press into politicians’ arms", The Times, 27 November 2012
  13. ^ Sarah Pilchick "Jewish editor of The Times resigns", The Jewish Chronicle, 12 December 2012
  14. ^ Owen Amos "British Press Awards: Times is newspaper of the year", Press Gazette, March 2009
  15. ^ John Plunkett (11 October 2010). "Times revives Times2 supplement". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  16. ^ James Harding "Read James Harding's email on redundancies at the Times", guardian.co.uk, 8 June 2010
  17. ^ James Robinson "Times editor defends paywall plan", guardian.co.uk, 25 May 2010
  18. ^ a b Jessica Elgot "Signs of The Times at JCC", The Jewish Chronicle, 14 April 2011
  19. ^ "Times editor James Harding reappears before Leveson", telegraph.co.uk, 7 February 2012
  20. ^ a b Lisa O'Carroll "Times editor apologises to high court judge for not disclosing email hacking, guardian.co.uk, 7 February 2012
  21. ^ "Leveson Inquiry: Times editor in hacking email apology", BBC News, 7 February 2012
  22. ^ Andrew Pugh "The Times and NightJack - the whole 'terrible' story", Press Gazette, 8 February 2012
  23. ^ Dan Sabbagh "Fleet Street's harmonious response to Leveson falls apart", The Guardian, 12 December 2012
  24. ^ Roy Greenslade "Harding dares to suggest a third way between state and self-regulation", guardian.co.uk, 27 November 2012
  25. ^ a b Katherine Rushton "James Harding steps down as editor of The Times", telegraph.co.uk, 12 December 2012
  26. ^ 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
  27. ^ Preston, Peter (3 February 2013). "Rupert Murdoch's back – and this time he's tweeting orders". The Observer. Retrieved 22 December 2017. 
  28. ^ James Harding "Times editor James Harding's resignation speech to editorial staff", guardian.co.uk, 12 December 2012
  29. ^ Lisa O'Carroll "Times editor James Harding resigns", guardian.co.uk, 12 December 2012
  30. ^ Gavriel Hollander "James Harding admits he was pushed out of The Times editor's chair", Press Gazette, 5 July 2013
  31. ^ 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. 
  32. ^ Jake Kanter "James Harding scoops BBC news chief role", Broadcast, 16 April 2013
  33. ^ Josh Halliday "James Harding named BBC News chief", guardian.co.uk, 16 April 2013
  34. ^ Ian Burrell "'Honoured' to join the BBC: James Harding - the man who tore it to bits", The Independent, 16 April 2013
  35. ^ "James Harding: BBC News and Current Affairs - Our stories", BBC Media Centre, 4 December 2013
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ a b Alex Farber "Harding unveils vision for BBC News", Broadcast, 4 December 2013
  38. ^ a b Jason Deans "BBC 'should not avoid investigative reporting after Savile and McAlpine'", theguardian.com, 4 December 2013
  39. ^ A project announced by former Director General Mark Thompson in January 2011 to ascertain how the BBC might maximise the utility of its available funds as the licence fee has been frozen by the government until the corporation's next charter renewal in 2017. See "Delivering Quality First", Inside the BBC, 2 December 2011
  40. ^ Hannah Furness "BBC news defies criticism it is 'too big' with pledge to double its global audience", telegraph.co.uk, 5 December 2013
  41. ^ Emily Bell "The BBC needs a global news strategy - and Harding's approach seems dated", The Guardian. 8 December 2013
  42. ^ "James Harding: BBC's head of news to leave". BBC News. 10 October 2017. Retrieved 10 October 2017. 
  43. ^ "BBC appoints Fran Unsworth as next head of news". BBC News. 15 December 2017. Retrieved 15 December 2017. 
  44. ^ Robert Colvile (16 August 2008). "Review: Alpha Dogs by James Harding". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  45. ^ 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. 
  46. ^ Harding, Janes (22 March 2018). "James Harding's Hugh Cudlipp lecture in full". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 March 2018. 
Media offices
Preceded by
Robert James Thomson
Editor of The Times
Succeeded by
John Witherow