Less obvious, possibly for reasons of self-preservation, will be what the sports desk staff of those titles, together with Independent on Sunday and i, make of a new boss who was a key management figure in the most expensive employment tribunal in British newspaper history, a case that even warranted mention at the Leveson Inquiry.
Mike Dunn officially took charge of sport at the Kensington offices this month, barely six weeks after his arrival from The Sun, originally to take charge of the business’s digital operations, including the struggling local TV station, London Live.
How long it takes for Dunn’s regular camp followers to catch up with him in Derry Street and appear on the sports pages of his latest employers, only time will tell, though it is fair to say that Dunn probably has never had such skinny budgets at his disposal.
Already, there’s talk of Dunn’s regular team mate, Tim Allan, taking charge of the Sunday paper's sports section. Who else might join him?
Football writer Rob Beasley has been a particular Dunn favourite, and followed him from News of the World to The Sun. In an area of journalism renowned for a bit of rough and tumble, Beasley is unique in having been escorted from the press box at Wembley on Cup Final day, after getting into a fight with a Manchester United supporter. Twenty years ago, it cost him his then job at PA. He’s never looked back.
In evidence, Beasley said he never met Mulcaire and had never heard his name until the arrest in 2006. Beasley was called to court because his own name and mobile phone number were found in one of Mulcaire’s notebooks alongside that of the former Chelsea striker, Adrian Mutu, who was sacked by the club when a drug test showed he was using cocaine.
"I didn't know the guy existed," Beasley said of Mulcaire when in the witness box. Asked if he had ever seen, heard or suspected that anyone within the paper was involved in accessing voicemails unlawfully, Beasley said: "Absolutely no idea at all."
Were Dunn now to sign Beasley for the Indy titles, it would take a major chunk from the stretched sports budget. Unless he determined to re-allocate funds from existing commitments.
When at News International, Dunn had a reputation for being especially generous with some columnists – Terry Venables being notable – while cutting the expense claims of staff reporters, even when properly supported with receipts, all to keep the accounts department happy.
One especially favoured Dunn freelancer is professional Brummie, Bob “Bomber” Harris, who was hired by Dunn to cover this summer's Eastbourne tennis and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow for The Sun, despite the paper having its own specialist staff reporters. Harris, who suffered a serious stroke last year, is properly regarded as “old school”: when working for Thomson Regional newspapers in the 1980s, he invited decathlete Daley Thompson to become the godfather of one of his children as a means of getting an “in” with the double Olympic champion. That probably won’t be an option for Harris today, since his next birthday will be his 70th.
It’s reasonable to speculate that there probably won’t be a huge exodus of sports reporters from The Sun to rejoin their former boss at The Independent: only three reporters, all Dunn recruits, turned up for his leaving bash this summer.
And don’t expect Dunn’s arrival to do anything but increase the amount of football coverage already in the sports pages of the Indy titles, particularly the Standard. “He knows nothing about any sport apart from football,” one former colleague said. “I know it sounds impossible, but Dunn managed to dumb down sports coverage at The Sun when he arrived.”
As his former sports editor on the Screws, Dunn was one of six defence witnesses called by News International to contest News of the World football reporter Matt Driscoll’s unfair dismissal claim six years ago. Unsuccessfully, as it turned out, since the case resulted in a payout of nearly £800,000 for Driscoll.
The tribunal found that Driscoll had been the victim of "a consistent pattern of bullying behaviour", led by the paper’s then editor Andy Coulson. Whatever happened to him?
Driscoll had been at the News of the World for ten years when he was sacked in April 2007 while on long-term sick leave for stress-related depression, which the tribunal found had arisen directly as a result of bullying. "The original source of the hostility towards the claimant was Mr Coulson, the then editor of the News of the World; although other senior managers either took their lead from Mr Coulson and continued with his motivation after Mr Coulson's departure; or shared his views themselves,” the tribunal’s written judgement reads.
Elsewhere, the tribunal was critical of Dunn: "We find that Mr Dunn, has with the benefit of hindsight and in order to attempt to bolster the respondent's case, exaggerated any shortcomings the claimant may have had."
The previously admired Driscoll was undermined to the point that – when in his late 30s - he suffered anxiety and stress and had a panic attack which saw him admitted to hospital with a suspected heart condition.
"I was tipped over the edge," Driscoll said in a subsequent interview.
"Overnight Coulson decided I was a bad journalist, and that was it.
“A tabloid newspaper office is like a mini totalitarian state, where an editor can decide anything, and nobody challenges it."
On Dunn, his immediate boss on the sports desk, Driscoll said: “He was later found to have exaggerated loads of things. It's sad because he had to do it for his bosses."
Where did that Driscoll interview appear? In The Independent, of course…