My Life in Media: Piers Morgan
'Have you any idea of how salty the caviar is in first-class these days? How much Puligny-Montrachet you have to drink to soothe the palate? It's disgraceful'
Monday 03 March 2008
Piers Morgan, 42, a former editor of the News of the World and The Daily Mirror, is a personality on any media platform you care to mention. He left The Mirror ignominiously in 2004 after publishing fake photographs of British troops abusing Iraqi prisoners but has since built a successful television career in the US and published memoirs of his time as a Fleet Street editor. He has three sons with his former wife and is currently walking out with The Daily Telegraph writer Celia Walden.
What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?
I was always incredibly nosy, and fascinated by news. I also loved reading papers, from a very early age. My mother remembers me pointing to a headline about a rape case when I was six and asking: "Mum, what does it mean when it says this girl was rapped?" Quite a tricky enquiry to navigate for any parent.
When you were 15 years old which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?
The Daily Mail and The Sunday Times. Which probably explains why I turned out to be such a reactionary, objectionable, investigative socialite.
And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?
The Thunderbirds, Dallas, Dukes of Hazard, Morecambe and Wise, Selina Scott and all the big boxing fights. Try getting your shrink to analyse that little lot. As for radio, I used to pretend to my schoolmates that I listened to John Peel, but of course listened instead to Peter Powell – who has transformed himself into one of the most successful talent agents in the country (well he has to be, he manages me).
Describe your job?
I don't have just one any more, I have loads. Which means I can never get fired again because I can always claim that whatever I'm getting fired from is not my real job, just a hobby. This year alone, I'll be judging Britain's Got Talent, and America's Got Talent; presenting an eight-part BBC1 interview series on fame; doing various other projects for ITV; writing my weekly column for The Mail on Sunday's Live magazine, monthly interviews for GQ, and my third volume of diaries; continuing to be editorial director of First News (the national newspaper for children that is starting to do incredibly well); making speeches everywhere from Dover to Dubai. And generally whoring myself as usual around the nation's airwaves. It's all vaguely ridiculous, but I love it.
What's the first media you turn to in the mornings?
I get The Sun, Mirror, Mail, Telegraph, Times and Independent delivered. I used to get The Guardian, but cancelled it in protest at the utterly brilliant Roger Alton getting turfed out of The Observer. I read them with Sky News on in the background, or Today if I'm feeling particularly cerebral.
Do you consult any media sources during the day?
I check the BBC website for news and sport updates at least 20 times a day on my iMac, laptop or mobile phone. You can trust it, which is more than be said for most of the internet. Then I usually flick around other websites including MediaGuardian (it survived the Alton protest by the skin of its teeth), Broadcast, the much-improved Mail, Popbitch and Holy Moly (just to check they haven't caught me in flagrante with Amy Winehouse). And, of course, Arsenal News – a wonderful site that brings me 15 minute updates on every story involving Arsenal published on the net in the world, and the occasional inadvertent link to very shapely derrieres in Rio.
What do you tune into when you get home?
Magic FM, or 'Tragic' as I like to call it. It's the only thing that brings any calm to my absurd life. Then I'll try and catch the ten o'clock news bulletins, and a bit of Newsnight and Question Time to see who is making an arse of themselves (Alex James, usually).
How do you feel you influence the media?
I like to think I act as a constant reminder of what can happen if you resolutely refuse to take yourself as seriously as others wish to take you. The British media is full of hypocritical, pompous, booze-sodden, whining, cynical bores – and other people who just want to have a laugh before they die. I prefer hanging out with the second crowd, and tormenting the first.
What is the best thing about your job?
The variety. One minute I'm debating the finer points of the Treaty of Lisbon with George Osborne on Question Time in Norwich, the next I'm judging piano-playing pigs with David Hasselhoff in Hollywood.
And the worst?
The travelling. Have you any idea how salty the caviar is in first-class these days? Or how much Puligny-Montrachet you have to drink to soothe the palate as a result? It's disgraceful.
What's the proudest achievement in your working life?
The Mirror's coverage of September 11, and the 'No War' campaign we waged to try and stop Blair taking us illegally and disastrously into Iraq. Just wish we had won it.
And what's your most embarrassing moment?
Winning Columnist of the Year for writing about myself going to parties every week in Live magazine. I felt wretched for my losing rivals like Jeremy Clarkson and Rod Liddle.
Who in the media do you most admire and why?
Celia Walden. She has a magnificent body of work. And Alan Rusbridger, for managing to get rid of an editor who was winning awards and putting on sales, while saving his own skin despite winning fuck all and spending £80m on a crashingly dull relaunch that has lost circulation. Genius.
What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?
I get all the Sunday papers, and love shouting at them for two hours. Just random stuff like: "That's not a fucking splash", "Look at the state of that boob job", or "How can I kill AA Gill without anyone noticing?"
Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire?
I'd like to wake up and see a headline saying: "TV PIERS RAVISHED ME TEN TIMES IN ONE NIGHT SAYS EVA MENDEZ."
What would you do if you didn't work in the media?
I once spent a summer bagging mushroom compost, which was strangely satisfying once you got over the horrific stench of it, and this seems to me to be the perfect career change option for a former tabloid newspaper editor.
Don't You Know Who I Am? by Piers Morgan is published in paperback by Ebury Press, £7.99
1987 Joins Surrey and South London Newspapers as a reporter
1989 Hired by Kelvin MacKenzie to be The Sun's showbusiness editor on the Bizarre column, which leads to writing several books about Take That
1994 Rupert Murdoch appoints him editor of the News of the World, making him the youngest to lead a national newspaper in 50 years. Departs after publishing photos of Earl Spencer's wife leaving a rehab clinic
1995 Appointed editor of Daily Mirror
2002 Ordered to pay Naomi Campbell damages for breach of confidentiality. The ruling is overruled by the Court of Appeal, then reinstated by the House of Lords
2000 Embroiled in Viglen scandal for buying £67,000 of shares in the company hours before his "City Slickers" column tipped it
2004 Sacked after running pictures of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment purportedly abusing Iraqi soldiers. Hosts chat show with Amanda Platell
2005 Publishes memoirs, The Insider: The Private Diaries of a Scandalous Decade and buys ailing trade magazine Press Gazette
2006 Works as a judge on America's Got Talent
2007 Publishes Don't You Know Who I Am, the second instalment of his diaries
2008 Currently appearing in a US version of The Apprentice
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