My Life in Media: Amanda Platell
Interview by Sophie Morris
Monday 07 April 2008
Amanda Platell, 50, is a columnist for the Daily Mail. She started her newspaper career in her home town of Perth, Australia, and moved to the UK over 20 years ago, rising to edit the Sunday Mirror and Sunday Express. Platell led William Hague's ill-fated 2001 election campaign, setting up the GQ interview in which he admitted to having drunk up to 14 pints a day as a young man; and filming a secret election video. She then returned to journalism. Currently, she lives in Hampstead, north London, with her cat Jim, and enjoys boxing and cooking.
What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?
My dad. He was a journalist and he retired at 81. It wasn't that he ever tried to turn me into a journalist, or that he particularly wanted me to follow in his footsteps, but some dads like to kick around a football, and my dad liked to kick around words. We'd do the same drive to school every day and he'd say, "What do you see that's different today?", and I'd say, "Nothing, Dad". And he'd say, "Look at the light, let's describe it". He loved words, and that gave me my love of storytelling.
When you were 15, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?
There were only two papers: The West Australian and the Perth Daily News. One was a morning paper and one an evening paper, and I used to gobble them up. I was always much more interested in reading the paper than in reading books. My father worked on The West Australian, and I later went to work on the Perth Daily News.
And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?
We didn't have a TV until I was well into my teens. I used to love Rolf Harris, that show where he would have a tin of paint and say, "Can you see what it is yet?". When I was growing up, Australia was pretty much a painting-by-numbers country in every sense. It was very conservative and staid, and there was this guy who used to jump about with this tin of paint and do outrageous things.
Describe your job?
My main job is my Daily Mail column, and probably about 40 or 50 extra pieces a year, which are mainly commentary. Last week was a good example. I wrote a page on Nick Clegg, and I also did a thing in Femail about how I'm giving up clothes for a year. I love that stretch from politics to social issues to just the fun of life. I also did The Jeremy Vine Show on the back of the Nick Clegg piece.
I do quite a lot of radio and television, such as Question Time and Richard & Judy. The broadcasting I do usually springs off something I have written.
What's the first media you turn to in the mornings?
Radio 4 comes on every morning, just before six o'clock.
Do you consult any media sources during the day?
I have all the papers delivered except the FT and the Daily Star. Because I work a lot from home, I am one of those incredibly irritating people that has a TV on in every room, on BBC or Sky News, which drives everyone else nuts.
What do you tune in to outside of work?
I don't want to switch off because I really enjoy the world I live in and find it endlessly fascinating. I feel slightly cheated if I'm out of contact for a while and I haven't been up to date.
I am really enjoying The Apprentice at the moment. I tend to make the stuff people talk about my priority as I can't watch that much – by the time you've fitted in your dinners with MPs and all your political shows, you've then got to watch the Ten O'Clock News and Newsnight.
Do you feel you influence the media?
I don't know if I do at all.
What's the proudest achievement in your working life?
The day that Paul Dacre said to me, "Give me your column on a Saturday".
And what's your most embarrassing moment?
The day the editor of The Sun phoned me up in the South of France to say, "We're just having a bit of fun with William Hague's GQ interview". Yes, it was about him admitting to the 14 pints, but a bit of fun it was not.
What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?
I get all the newspapers on Sunday. They're almost like food to me: sometimes I want to go to heavier ones first, sometimes I want to go to the News of the World first. I don't really have a passion for one more than another. I do love The Sunday Times's Culture and Style magazines, though.
Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire?
I'm 50 years old now, and when I first arrived in Britain, all I ever wanted to do was to work on the Daily Mail.
What would you do if you didn't work in the media?
I think I would be very depressed if I didn't do what I do. In the periods of time in the past when I have been sacked or something like that, when I have looked for other jobs, there has just never been anything else I have wanted to do.
Ever since I can remember even just thinking about working, all I have ever wanted was to be a journalist.
Whom in the media do you most admire, and for what reason?
There are three people: Andrew Marr, because I love his facility and his intelligence; and Simon Heffer, because I love his integrity and his fearlessness; and Andrew Pierce, because he is the best story-getter and the most instinctive journalist I have ever known.
1978 First job on the Perth Daily News
1985 Arrives in London and freelances for The Observer Magazine and Sunday Express. Part of Today start-up team
1987 Deputy editor of Today
1993 Appointed managing editor of Mirror Group but soon moves to The Independent as marketing director and then managing director
1996 Moves to the Sunday Mirror as acting editor
1998 Appointed acting editor of the Sunday Express
1999 Leaves to become Hague's head of communications
2002 Begins contributing to the Daily Mail
2004 Joins Piers Morgan to host political chatshow Morgan & Platell, on Channel 4
2007 Starts Daily Mail column
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