My Mentor: Mary Ann Sieghart on Bill Deedes

'He asked me whether I liked the telegraph. I said I didn't think it was aimed at people my age'
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The Independent Online

He started me off doing what he considered the most challenging job on the paper, which was compiling the TV listings with an extremely difficult boss. It was pretty hard but after that I spent a bit of time on Peterborough, the diary, and finally he let me do two or three weeks leader writing at the end. We've been friends ever since, 25 years now, and he gave the speech at my wedding.

My views were startlingly at odds with the Telegraph. I just piped up with these liberal opinions and the rest of them looked at me as if I was pondlife. But Bill was great, I think he rather enjoyed seeing a bit of argument.

I was struck by how incredibly humble he was. Once or twice he took me for lunch and insisted we went by bus, which for a Fleet Street editor was quite something. For him to take interest in an 18-year-old intern was extraordinary, but he was just a very generous man.

He's done everything in his life. He's been a cabinet minister, a newspaper editor, a war hero, he's devoted himself to charity. He's a fund of fascinating stories and so young at heart, but most of all he's a man of such integrity and conscience. He always wants to do the right thing and that's such a rare thing in a journalist.

He's been my great mentor and he's always taken the trouble, which most people don't, to bring on what he sees as young talent. He says it's like spotting racehorses, which is sweet, but he gave me my first big break and I still have a soft spot for the Telegraph."

Mary Ann Sieghart is assistant editor of The Times