‘Cov Con’ Live Blog – David Yelland: “My life in and out of the Sun”

Editors note; This is a repost from December last year and is relevant to the news surrounding the closure of the News Of The World after 168 years. The original article is from a Coventry Conversation by David Yelland (former Editor of the Sun), commenting on phone tapping and hacking which has once again come to light. Sean Carson is the original author of this post.

13.59 – Is there any real news out there? David says you don’t have to find any real news anymore as the advent of reality TV has taken over in terms of a primary source of news. Instant fame will cause a lot of hurt, believes David.

13.54 – PR suits David down to the ground according to him. As a commander of information he is in his element being counsel to clients. Personal integrity in both journalism and PR is key. “Once you’ve lost your personal integrity,” says David, “you’re gone.”

13.52 – David on the Andy Coulson News of the World scandal – As an editor, David can’t believe a fellow editor would not know phone tapping was in action, especially with the rumoured remuneration of £100,000 to a private detective in The News of the World’s case. Anything more than £1000 would have to be signed off by “someone in deep carpet land. It would be impossible for anyone at News International to not know what was going on” says David.

13.48 – Privacy vs press freedom. Should injunctions and super-injunctions be allowed? A sensitive issue believes David, citing the fact that along with the obvious legal issues, the object of a story can take defensive measures and disclose information to rival publications.

13.46 – David stopped drinking in 2005 after his realisation he would become a single parent due to his wife’s terminal illness. Getting married again in two weeks time, David obviously has his life back on track and is an inspiration to alcoholics the world over.

13.42 – David attributes his second biggest mistake down to being drunk. Speaking frankly about his alcoholism David believes it started from drinking at an early age, exacerbated by University life. Attending a meeting with Murdoch wearing two shirts having, slept on his sofa in an inebriated state, David believes the job contributes to alcoholism due to the lack of having to drive, attending functions all the time and the excitement of the job.

13.37 – David’s biggest mistake he believes is the “Sophie topless scandal.” Printing the picture lost over half a million copies over night and prompted an icy call from Murdoch. “It probably cost us ten million pounds” says David.

13.36 – There’s very little debate at The Sun owing to its pyramidal structure according to David. An operational structure he believes gives huge potential for mistakes and isn’t conducive to the smooth running of the business.

13.33 – “Having always been a liberal I was quite rebellious, I don’t think they knew what they were getting” says David on his role as editor of The Sun.

13.31 – With The Sun selling 1 in 3 papers in NI, David felt a huge responsibility for political goings on in the region having fully supported Blair’s actions in Northern Ireland.

13.28 – Coming from a political and economic background David says he was not a natural editor of The Sun. Challenging the huge popularity of Tony Blair at the time, under David’s leadership The Sun campaigned against a common currency just four weeks after David got the job, somewhat rocking the boat after heavily supporting Labour’s election campaign only a year earlier.

13.25 – Plucked from The New York Post to edit The Sun in 1998, David faced a different situation with both himself and the paper backing Tony Blair whilst being staffed almost exclusively (at the top level at least) by Conservative supporters.

13.23 – “Rupert is never cruel to his editors.” David believes he is the best newspaper proprietor of all time and is actually a closet liberal “believing in free movement of labour as he does free movement of capital.”

13.21 – “You can feel like a member of the family – but you’re not” says David on working for Murdoch. A point he consistently reminded himself of and that obviously served him well. “He has a genuine interest in newspapers” – David on Murdoch. David says he would ring up the editor asking “what’s not in the paper.” Expecting professionalism above all else Murdoch is truly committed to the business.

13.18 – Becoming the youngest City editor  at only 27 years of age, David began to catch Rupert Murdoch’s eye around the same time he acquired the New York Post going on to become business editor.

13.15 – “There are a lot of bald men in New York.” David believes that living in the ultra-diverse city of New York further boosted his confidence in accepting himself and furthering his career.

13.13 – “Ambition and a determination to prove people wrong kept me going” says David. Dispelling the myth that you have to be an Oxbridge graduate to get into journalism and his faith in his ability to string words together gave him the confidence to pursue his career in journalism.

13.11 – David reinforces the old adage of portfolio, portfolio, portfolio. Even after being turned down by nearly 100 newspapers, David believes along with portfolio, persistence is the key to a career in journalism.

13.09 – David’s least favourite memory of his time in Coventry: “Not feeling like I’d done well enough when I first got here” says David.

13.07 – David’s favourite memory at Coventry – a typical student flashback to times involving copious amounts of alcohol and mischievous goings on!

13.05 – A-Levels weren’t David’s strong point as he outlines. Achieving “an interesting set of results,” David reckons his ability to talk at length on economic and political concepts, even from an early age, marked him out as a journalist from the start.

13.02 – On change in Cov: “It’s grown up” says David. As an economics graduate from the University David is amazed at how much the University has changed from its early days as Lanchester Polytechnic.

13.00 – David Yelland, former journalist and editor of The Sun, now partner at Brunswick Group LLP talks about his life in and out of the media.

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