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Des Kelly: My Life In Media

'I'm paid to give my opinion, which is something I do voluntarily anyway, as my long-suffering friends will testify'

Des Kelly, 40, is one of Britain's best-known sports columnists and writes for the 'Daily Mail'. He was formerly acting editor of the 'Daily Mirror', replacing Piers Morgan in the wake of the faked photos of Iraqi prisoners fiasco, before being forced out himself. He recently became an executive media consultant to the PR firm Hill & Knowlton and is a director of the internet company Fast Web Media. He lives in central London with his partner, the television presenter Carol Vorderman.

So what inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

I filled in for a friend while he was on holiday, at David Dimbleby's local newspaper group . It went well and they graciously kept a job open for a year until I finished my degree. I was soon news editing and laying out different local papers, which was a great grounding.

When you were 15 years old, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

Our neighbour worked at the Westferry print site and he threw a free Daily Express and Daily Telegraph through our door.

Describe your job

A boy's-own existence. I get paid to watch and pontificate about sport for a national newspaper. Most men would step over a naked Angelina Jolie to do that. And at Hill & Knowlton, I'm employed to give my opinion, which is something I do voluntarily anyway, as my long-suffering mates will testify.

What media do you turn to first thing in the morning?

I'm a magpie, I flick around. So, a bit of Sky News and GMTV; listening to Radio Five Live or the Today programme in the bathroom; then speed-reading every paper from front to back.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

The BBC website is splendid; also the Football 365, Drudge Report, 4thegame, and Red Issue sites. I trawl the Apple site for new toys, and listen to Xfm and Five Live in the afternoon.

What is the best thing about your job?

Seeing something I've produced in print the next morning and hearing people argue about it. And meeting people.

And the worst?

Not much. I'm a lucky chap. I love what I do.

How do you feel you influence the media?

You can't ignore anything in the Daily Mail, even if you want to. The editor Paul Dacre understands his market better than any rival. The day I joined, he said, "Make them laugh, make them cry, or make them angry", which isn't a bad template for a columnist.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

Winning Sports Columnist of the Year. Editing the Daily Mirror on occasion during three years as deputy editor. And taking over, albeit briefly, as honcho. I was there just long enough to get hauled to No 10 for a private tea with Tony Blair. The biscuits were rather average, I'm afraid.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

It almost came on Ant and Dec's Family Fortunes, with Carol the other week. Vernon Kay and his brother told me that they had seen the answers for the final head-to-head. They said, "First it's olive, then lemon...", etc. Trouble was, they'd seen the dummy responses in rehearsal. So, when Dec asked me to name a vegetable, I was a split second away from saying "olive" in front of 10 million people!

What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?

I read all the Sunday papers. My favourite magazines are Private Eye, for Ian Hislop's unerring ability to expose morons, and Time Out for planning my week. Word is easily the best music mag, and I drool over the gadget glossies T3 and Stuff.

If you didn't work in the media, what would you do?

I'd sing and drink bourbon in a gloomy nightclub.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Anyone with some wit. Jeremy Clarkson makes me laugh. Jonathan Ross's radio show is outrageous. Terry Wogan is as friendly as an old jumper, and Jane Moore is both sensible and sassy. I also turn to Brian Reade and Oliver Holt in the Mirror. (You've got to support friends, however deluded.) And Stephen Fry is an intellectual god. When asked on Radio 4 for a definition of countryside, Fry replied, "The murder of Piers Morgan." Not only did he manage to evoke the C-word on Radio 4, he offered to enhance the well-being of the nation as well. Now that's genius.

The CV

1991 Chief sports reporter, Today newspaper

1994 Football editor, Sunday Express

1996 Assistant editor and head of sport, Daily Express

1997 Assistant editor and head of sport, Daily Mirror

1999 UK Sports Columnist of the Year

2001 Deputy editor and head of sport, Daily Mirror

2004 Acting editor, Daily Mirror

2004 Sports columnist, Daily Mail