Matt Cooper resigns as editor of the Sunday Tribune on November 5, 2002 to replace Eamon Dunphy as presenter of The Last Word on Today FM. He edits his final issue of the Sunday Tribune in early November before joining The Last Word on January 6, 2003.
Today FM offers the job to Cooper a week earlier but he delays his acceptance in the interim. Dunphy describes Cooper as “a great choice and a heavyweight journalist.”
“I have enjoyed my time at the Sunday Tribune enormously and this is the only job that I would have left the paper for,” Cooper says.
When Cooper joins the Sunday Tribune in 1996 he becomes the youngest national newspaper editor in the country. Under his guidance, the paper’s circulation rises from 76,000 to 90,000 in 2001. However, sales fall to 85,000 copies in 2002.
Cooper is noted for his prolific writing output as well as regular stints as a stand-in presenter on The Last Word. He wins National Journalist of the Year in 1993 and in 2001. The Sunday Tribune says he will continue as a writer with the newspaper.
“We are sorry to see Matt leave. He made a significant contribution to the newspaper during his six years in the editor’s chair,” managing director Jim Farrelly says.
Speculation grows about who will succeed Cooper. “The appointment process will begin immediately and the job will be advertised. It will be similar to the selection process for The Irish Times editor’s job,” said Tribune spokesperson Martin Larkin.
Candidates interested in the job include Irish Independent business editor Richard Curran as well as in-house candidates Martin Wall, Diarmuid Doyle, Jim Farrelly, and Paddy Murray, who takes over as acting editor.
Much depends on the attitude of Independent News & Media, which has a 29.9% stake in Tribune Publications. It may be unwilling to grant a new editor significant funds since this would threaten the market of its flagship newspaper, the Sunday Independent. When asked about this in an interview in 2001, Farrelly says, “To grow your company, you must be financially independent.”
Acting editor Paddy Murray ultimately succeeds Cooper as full-time editor.
(From: “Last Word as Cooper quits Tribune” by Michael Brennan, Irish Examiner, November 6, 2002)