My Life In Media: Andrew Neil
Monday 04 October 2004
Andrew Neil, 55, has been editor-in-chief since 1996, and publisher since 1999, of the Barclay brothers' Press Holdings, owner of The Business, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and Edinburgh Evening News.
Andrew Neil, 55, has been editor-in-chief since 1996, and publisher since 1999, of the Barclay brothers' Press Holdings, owner of The Business, The Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday and Edinburgh Evening News. He has presented The Daily Politics on BBC2 and This Week on BBC1 since January 2003. Educated at Paisley Grammar School, he graduated from the University of Glasgow with a Masters degree in politics and economics.
What inspired you to start a career in the media?
I had intended to begin a political career after university, then I thought I'd be more use as a politician if I did something else first. I thought I could do that and keep up my interest in politics and economics by becoming a journalist. The problem was that I enjoyed journalism so much, I never went back to politics.
Cast your mind back to when you were 15. What was the family newspaper and did you read it?
My parents read the Daily Express. But I also had a subscription to The Times.
And what were your favourite television and radio shows?
On TV: Tom and Jerry, Simon Dee Show, Top of the Pops and Man from Uncle; alsoany documentary on current affairs. On radio: Round the Horne and all the comedy shows on the then-Home Service, plus top-20 music on Radio Luxemburg and pirate stations Radio Caroline and Radio Scotland.
What is the best thing about your job?
Getting paid to do things like covering every big political story when you'd probably do it for nothing just for the interest in being at the centre of events.
And the worst?
I'm very lucky there is no "worst".
What's the first media you turn to in the mornings nowadays?
I look at the papers.
Will you be consulting any media sources during the course of the working day?
I always have Sky News on in the background. I grab the Evening Standard and I dip into various websites, especially MediaGuardian and the Drudge Report.
What's the proudest achievement in your working life?
The successful launch, against all the odds, of Sky Television.
And your most embarrassing?
Using neo-fascist historian David Irving to translate the Goebbels' Diaries for The Sunday Times. Irving did an honest enough job. But using him sullied the whole project - proving the old adage that, when you lie down with dogs, you get fleas.
At home, what will you tune in to?
Channel 4 News, but more often I'm not back until Newsnight. On a quiet night I'll watch the shows I've Sky-plussed - like 24, Spooks and political dramas like the BBC's Dirty War and Channel 4's The Hamburg Cell. In the States I watch The Sopranos and I like Frasier. I hate soaps, and sitcoms in Britain are crap now. The best film I've seen recently was Sky Captain and one of the best films ever is Black Hawk Down.
At the weekends, what is your Sunday paper and do you have any favourite magazines?
All the Sundays are delivered to my home but I pay special attention to The Sunday Times (naturally), Scotland on Sunday and The Business (naturally again, since I'm publisher of both), and The Observer.
Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire
Being editor of the New York Times or anchoring the BBC or ITV results on general election night.
If you didn't work in the media, what would you do?
I guess I would have become a politician... though I might also have had a bash at being a film director.
Who are your best friends in the media?
The team responsible for my shows on BBC1 and BBC2, and some very talented executives and editors running our papers in Edinburgh and London.
Who in the media do you most admire?
Alastair Burnet, my mentor.
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