No, not that one.
Alan Rusbridger's extended farewell from the Guardian was marked with magazine interviews, retrospectives, Twitter tributes, and instagram and Vine shots of his final editorial conference and ritual banging out. His face was everywhere, including above the masthead of his own paper, puffing a valedictory letter to readers.
Roger Alton's exit from the Times was the complete opposite: at his insistence there were no presentations, no speeches, no banging, no cake, no toasts. He did not even pause to collect the souvenir front page prepared by colleagues. That will most likely be handed to him at a quiet dinner in a few weeks' time.
The contrast between the simultaneous departures is the more piquant because the two men worked alongside each other as editors of the Guardian and Observer for nearly a decade - and because of a "feud" over the Iraq war that some blamed for Alton's decision to leave the Scott stable after more than thirty years.
Alton joined the Guardian as a sub five years after graduating from Oxford (Rusbridger went to Cambridge) and was promoted to arts editor, features editor and Weekend magazine editor. He was running G2 when he was invited to move upstairs and take over from Will Hutton as Observer editor in 1998.
Like Rusbridger, Alton picked up plenty of prizes along the way. He was twice GQ's editor of the year (there he is, pictured with his booty in 2005), and his Observer was named Newspaper of the Year at the 2007 Press Awards.
He left the paper that year and went on to spend two years as editor of the Independent, stepping down from that job when the paper was sold to Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev.
In 2010 he moved to his final berth as executive editor of the Times. The timing was excruciating: the paper was going through a traumatic redundancy programme to cut costs and stem "unsustainable" losses, so the arrival of another chief on a six-figure salary when more lowly-paid indians were being
Their departures coincided with reports that a forthcoming book by the Guardian writer Nick Davies, would allege that Ahmed had helped to "sex up" the "dodgy dossier" about Iraq's so-called weapons of mass destruction in 2003.
In fact, Flat Earth News did no such thing, but it did include a chapter about the Observer's support for the war, portraying Alton as a naive editor with little political savvy who came to depend on the equally politically inexperienced Ahmed.
"Roger Alton has never claimed to be a political animal," Davies wrote. "His style is too intense, bordering on manic, at best full of charm, at worst eye-wateringly clumsy. His passions are far from government, much closer to sport and women, both of which he pursues with obsessive energy. In newspaper terms, he is a desk man, a brilliant sub-editor who can project stories on a page, a good commissioner of interesting tales. But not political."
Davies continued with an anecdote about Alton's response to an invitation to meet Tony Blair for a quiet chat in Downing Street shortly after he became editor in 1998:
"Fuck," said Alton, who swears when he breathes. "I can't meet the Prime Minister. I'm just a fucking sub."
By Davies's account, Alton took political editor Patrick Wintour with him, and while they were waiting outside Blair's study, David Miliband walked by. Wintour introduced his new editor:
"So what sort of changes do you plan to make to the paper?" asked Miliband, who was evidently looking for some kind of political insight.
Totally bereft of an answer, Alton reverted to type, stammering: "Bit more sex on the front page. More sport. That kind of thing,"
It is for the reader to judge whether this page of the book reflects more kindly on the author or his subject.
The chapter goes on to recount how Wintour left the Observer for the Guardian and how his deputy Andy McSmith resigned after being overlooked for the vacant post, which went to Ahmed. It worries Davies that the paper is in the hands of people he sees as political know-nothings.
Over the next few years, Ahmed and Alton built up a relationship with Blair and Alastair Campbell. Davies clearly disapproves - he thinks the Observer was used, and even floats the notion that Alton submitted bits of Campbell emails to be included in leaders. He also suggests that Alton contrived to be absent from a key leader writers' conference to thwart any attempt to override his decision to back military action against Saddam Hussein. The Guardian opposed it.
Levy sees this as evidence of the "civil war" that had been "raging" between the two papers and the two editors because Rusbridger could not forgive Alton for supporting the American invasion. Hostilities had reached such a pitch, Levy writes, that the Guardian had taken to openly rubbishing Observer news stories. (One of these was about the suggested link between MMR and autism, which has been denounced by most science reporters. In this case the rubbishing was done by Ben Goldacre, now renowned for his Bad Science book.)
Turning to the yet-to-be-published Flat Earth News, Levy writes:
"Conspiracy theories abound that the book was a ploy by the Guardian to undermine the Observer. What is clear is that the Guardian's sandals-and-beard brigade have been up in arms as what they see as a 'neo-con' takeover of the Observer."
Evidence for this came with publication of books by Observer writers Andrew Anthony and Nick Cohen in which they "stuck up two fingers" towards Rusbridger by "making a show of shedding their liberal-Left credentials".
Levy goes on to describe Rusbridger as "a man of considerable achievement, a brilliant journalist...a rather aloof bookish figure who sees himself as an intellectual". Alton, by contrast, is a maverick, "a passionately, deeply creative journalist and superb technician... a sporting fanatic who goes mountain climbing and spends hours in the gym."
But, Levy continues, the root of the "fear and loathing in Farringdon Road" was the papers' impending move to King's Cross that would see a switch to seven-day working with staff serving both titles and the website.
The Guardian media commentator Roy Greenslade had written in his Evening Standard column the previous day that there was definitely no feud, but he was also of the opinion that the digital revolution and the merging of sections of the two papers had "undoubtedly spooked" Alton.
"He is not a digital dinosaur, as I have called him in the past, but he remains convinced of the primacy of printed papers. So is he about to jump ship? 'Sooner or later' he says. It's not a job for life'."
Alton's resignation was announced that afternoon.
Davies subsequently denied suggestions that he had written his chapter about the Observer at Rusbridger's request to undermine Alton; and Alton was in turn equally firm in his denial that he had resigned because of the Davies book or any dispute with Rusbridger over the integration plans.
"I've never had a conflict with anybody," he told Press Gazette. "Kamal is one of the best journalists I have ever worked with and of the highest integrity, so if anybody impinges his integrity I'll go and punch his fucking face in."
I have had a fantastic ability to miss stories...you chuck away stories and then see them on the 10 o'clock news and think 'Jesus, how do I get out of that?' So you shift the blame on to someone or say it was a foul-up by the Press Association and try to cover your tracks as best you can...
I remember when we got the scoop linking Peter Mandelson to the passport applications. It should have been our lead, but I wasn't sure quite how good the story was and ran it as a basement on page one, leading with Bush's inauguration as President....The Mail on Sunday led with the story. When old Mandy resigned on the following Wednesday I certainly thought "That was a killer basement."
- My biggest mistake interview with the Independent, 2002
Our magazine was running the 100 greatest ideas of the past 100 years. The masthead had just one word - BRILLIANT - in black on red and yellow. The Queen Mum died on the Saturday, so we had to pull the whole thing back. However, for technical reasons I couldn't alter the masthead, which was rather unfortunate: "BRILLIANT" in large bold letters right above "Queen Mother dies".
- Another big mistake from that Independent interview
What about Sunday night’s telly? Personally, I can’t stand the BBC – I think it is bloated, bureaucratic, ripe for partial privatisation, and astonishingly inept at handling its own problems. But crikey, it does show fantastic TV.
- a one-off blog post for the Independent, 2008
We're under attack from clapped out academics, coked-up celebs, loved up lawyers and vengeful politicians – bastards all of them!
- British Press Awards, 2013
A malign conspiracy of sanctimonious do-gooders, vengeful politicians, hypocritical celebrities and hatchet-faced lefties has brought about the biggest threat to press freedom since Uncle Adolf started on his European adventures.
- Spectator column, 2013
You can accuse me of incompetence, of being a shitty journalist or a shallow halfwit, but to say I would deliberately lie about stuff and manipulate information - nothing could be further from the truth. It can't co-exist with your role in journalism. All one is trying to do is tell the truth. You are not deliberately trying to deceive, and once you do that you don't have a right to be a journalist.
- on Flat Earth News, interview with the Guardian, 2008
Pictures of semi-naked women basically make the world a better place
- on criticisms of too much celebrity news, 2008
I feel a terrible personal failure, it's very chastening. I feel like I've let down all the staff - and it's a tight, lean staff, who work fantastically hard. I feel like I haven't been able to deliver either to them or the senior management.
I don't want to sound like I'm about to put a bullet in my head - but it's not nice, it's very discouraging.
- on Independent job cuts, 2008
If you can't see that Britney shaving her own hair off matters, just as the Budget matters, or Bono - though not necessarily in the same way - you aren't going to enjoy working in newspapers.
- interview with The Word, 2009
Journalists should be involved with everything and everyone around them, but not necessarily sleep with them... Right now some of the connections between the News International papers and Cameron's inner circle are too close for comfort...Journalists like to think we're on the main stage: but we're not. we're in the audience.
- more from that Word interview - two years before the hacking scandal
Some newspapers ... the default position is: the world is shit, and here are some bad stories about it. And I don’t think that’s what papers should do. You should feel better when you read your paper rather than worse.
- interview with Press Gazette, 2015
Newspapers can do things that basically nobody else can
- more from the Press Gazette interview, 2015
My biggest mistake of all is probably that of being a terrible old right-winger trying to look after one of Britain's premier liberal papers.
- more from that Independent interview from 2002
I have never heard such a piece of horseshit. It's utter bollocks. Never look back.
- on suggestions he took the Independent job to spite the Guardian
Christ almighty....I tell you what though, one thinks one is a bit of an asshole, but some of those quotes aren't too bad are they?
- on reading this blogpost
..... Are I'm afraid very hard to come by these days, which is a great sadness. Though not nearly as big a sadness for me as the fact that I will be leaving the Times this evening. It has been a hugely exciting and fascinating time to have worked here. A wonderful period, with some truly fantastic and really talented people, true friends, from whom I have learned a great deal.
The Times is a quite remarkable paper, brilliantly edited and written and designed, and unique in the modern world really, in being easily the most
contemporary paper, certainly in this country, with a quite amazing legacy and back story too. Nothing else like it. I think maybe until you work elsewhere, and come in, you don't quite realise how unbelievably strong the Times is. It is a great privilege for me to have worked here: I think it is a privilege for anyone to work here.
Anyway, thank you all very much for making my time here such a blast, and thank you also for the nice things that many of you have said. It has been emotional.In the meantime don't forget me: always available for functions and weddings.
But, on that front, I feel duty bound to say how modest he is about his own achievements in the trade, which dwarf those of more than 99 per cent of the people he worked with.
With such experience comes unsurprisingly good judgment and wise counsel, both of which I've relied on and am grateful for. He is a brilliant, instinctive journalist and a very, very funny man.
One story that sums up Roger and Harding best was an afternoon conference during the student riots when someone had shoved a metal pole through the back windscreen of a car in which the Prince of Wales was a passenger.
Harding, as was his wont, was keen on having a splash to do with Ai Weiwei or Ashtiani, the Iranian democracy campaigner. It took an incredulous Roger to explain forcefully that the heir to the throne had been attacked on the streets of London and that this was the obvious splash
Working with Roger Alton was one of the most amazing experiences he is truly unique – Richard Thompson
I loved working for Roger Alton, a true treat and an education – Emily Bell
Sad that my old Observer editor Roger Alton leaving The Times. Never agreed with Rog on everything but always inspired immense loyalty - Paul Harris
I remember being stunned on a Saturday just hours before press time to spot Rog in the bookies in Exmouth Market – Paul Harris
Fave Roger email to staff began 'there was so much swearing in the paper on Sunday I didn't know where to fucking put myself' – Emily Bell
The only person I have ever met who swears more than I. Fucking Brilliant.
– Charlotte Gooch
Glad I had the chance to work with him - he's a legend – Mike Hills
Some love for newspaper legend Roger Alton, who has left The Times. Such a good editor. And a fun climbing partner – Ed Douglas
A tyro among hacks, also noted for employing c-word as adjective, verb, adverb & noun - Janice Turner
So long Roger Alton - a great editor and champion of press freedom – Sarah Baxter
One of my favourite former bosses – Murad Ahmed
Roger Alton, the fantastically sweary, downright lovely Times exec editor who just retired – Alice Ross
Feel sad he was a top bloke to work for. Sweary tho. Terrific editor – Polly Phillips
He was always lovely to subs (said as a former news & sports sub for the Observer)… I will always love him for it. He was wonderful to work for – Sarah Hughes
I loved working under him & will always remember his impassioned four letter defence of Hotel Babylon fondly – Sarah Hughes
They don't make them like him any more. Sadly – Ashling O’Connor
SubScribe is honoured to have sight of Alton's farewell front page and respects the request not to quote directly from it, since the recipient has yet to see it. Safe to say, its language almost matches Alton's - with half a dozen f-words, a couple of greater profanities and a spattering of bloodys. The opening quote, however, is in the public domain and seems a fitting epitaph to a dazzling journalistic career:
Don't you have a skateboarding llama or something? I fucking love a skateboarding llama.