Broadcaster and journalist Derek Jameson dies aged 82

Jameson added half a million readers at the Daily Express during his editorship

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The Independent Online

Veteran broadcaster and journalist Derek Jameson has died, aged 82, of a heart attack at home.

Mr Jameson, once described by the critic Auberon Waugh as "Royalty apart, the best-known person in Britain", edited the Daily Express, the Daily Star and the News of the World and was also managing editor of the Daily Mirror and a presenter on BBC Radio 2.

Much of his fame rested on his gravelly Cockney voice, which he regarded as unique because it contained elements of Manchester, where he worked for eight years, and wartime days as an evacuee in Hertfordshire.

He told how when he rang directory enquiries on one occasion the operator asked: "Is that Derek Jameson?"

Jameson began life in poverty in London's East End, where he grew up in a children's home. He began work in Fleet Street as a messenger boy for Reuters news agency at the age of 14 and rose through the ranks to edit some of Britain's biggest newspapers.

In the late 1940s he was all but forced out of Reuters for being a Communist and escaped to do national service for two years. He returned, having given up allegiance to the party, and stayed at Reuters for 16 years.

Through his career Jameson developed a reputation as a builder of circulation and within a year of launching the Daily Star in 1978 - the first new national tabloid for 75 years – sales were standing at more than 1 million copies a day.

He also put on half a million readers at the Daily Express during his editorship from 1977 to 1980, which was a circulation rise of nearly 25 per cent.

But by 1984, he was broke and unemployed. Rupert Murdoch had fired him from the News of the World over "differences" and he lost all his money in a disastrous libel action against the BBC. Radio 4 called him "an East End boy made bad" in the satirical current affairs sketch show Week Ending. Jameson sued the station for defamation but lost and court costs were awarded against him. The corporation was not the only one to poke fun: Private Eye also referred to him as Sid Yobbo.

But it was the BBC, recognising his gifts as a communicator, which was to come to the rescue and turn him into a celebrity when it offered him television series such as Do They Mean Us? and his popular breakfast show on Radio 2.

He went on to present a radio chat show for six years with his wife Ellen, establishing the largest late night radio audience in Europe.

He lived in Hove for many years, wrote a column for the Brighton Argus newspaper and had two buses names after him.

The best-selling 1988 autobiography Touched by Angels told the story of his life, with the second, 1990, volume Last of the Hot Metal Men chronicling the dying days of the old Fleet Street.

Mr Jameson leaves Ellen, his third wife, and four adult children.

Hugh Whittow, editor of the Daily Express, said: "It was a privilege to work for him. He taught me a lot. Behind the rough exterior was a very clever, charming man who had a knack of always getting the best out of people. After a brilliant journalistic career he went on to display great talent on both radio and television. He was a class act."

Radio 2 executive producer Gary Bones, who was a senior producer on the Radio 2 Breakfast Show with Mr Jameson in the early 90s, said: "Derek was not only a unique broadcaster and Fleet Street legend but also a really nice, kind and generous man who always knew exactly how to tap into the mood of the nation at the time.

"I remember nothing more demonstrated his sensitive nature than when he broke down on air during his daily review of the papers while reading a story about a child with leukaemia.

"Listeners at the time will remember his daily catch phrase 'Morning, morning, Jameson here'. He will be greatly missed and our thoughts are with his wife Ellen."