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You couldn't make it up: 'Sport' editor quits for BBC

Paul Kelbie
Thursday 17 August 2006 00:00 BST

Elvis, Lord Lucan and numerous alien visitors can rest easy. Tony Livesey, the editor-in-chief and managing director of the Daily Sport and Sunday Sport newspapers, is to end his 18-year association with Britain's most outrageous publishing company.

Livesey, who started at the Sunday Sport as a sports reporter in 1987, a year after it launched, has decided to concentrate on a new career in television and radio with the BBC.

He is to join the corporation as a TV sports reporter for the BBC's regional flagship news programme, North West Tonight, and has plans to work on other TV projects for the BBC.

"I've always wanted to be a television presenter," said Livesey, who is an established presenter on BBC Radio Lancashire's breakfast show and recently completed a five-part Channel 4 series, Seaside Secrets, that he wrote and presented.

"I've been here 18 years," he said. "I started as a sports reporter in 1987 and I've done every job you can imagine since. I've toyed with TV for years and juggled the work but I've decided now that I want to go into TV and radio."

During his time with Sport newspapers, owned by the millionaire publisher David Sullivan, who made his fortune with pornographic magazines and sex shops, Livesey helped shape and maintain the character of the paper, which has been described by media experts as "the first successful post-Wapping tabloid".

Despite having only a modest circulation, which recent figures suggest has fallen by more than 50,000 in a year, the Sunday Sport is infamous around the world as a near parody of the excess of tabloid journalism.

Headlines such as "Hitler Was A Woman", "Aliens Turned Our Son Into A Fish Finger" and "Donkey Robs Bank", along with detailed accounts of salacious court cases and sexual shenanigans have helped keep the paper on the newsstands, albeit often on the top shelf.

The newspaper set out to shock, titillate and amuse its readers with stories featuring celebrities, sex and the bizarre - long before any of the new weekly lads' mags - and it has thrived while other more serious publications launched about the same time have closed.

Some of its more lurid stories have included a 62-stone German porn star; a double-decker London bus found frozen in the Antarctic ice; a Second World War bomber found on the moon; a statue of Elvis found on Mars; Lord Lucan spotted riding Shergar and countless alien abductions.

Livesey became the public face of the paper, with appearances on Have I Got News for You and Never Mind the Buzzcocks, as well as a 1997 Cutting Edge documentary about the tabloid, "Sex, Lies and Aliens" - that showed the outgoing editor coming up with the headline "Shoots You, Sir" about the murder of Gianni Versace. "One of my other proudest moments was when I didn't quite believe the story "Aliens turned our son into a fish finger" so I told the reporter to go to Asda, buy a packet of fish fingers, mix the child in with them and see if the mother could pick it out," said Livesey.

Those on the receiving end have not always appreciated the paper's unique brand of humour.

Three years ago the paper was forced to print a front-page apology to the pop star Ms Dynamite, who failed to see the funny side after they published a picture of her head on the body of a topless model.

In a formula they had used with numerous other celebrities, including the then 17-year-old Britney Spears, the newspaper printed the picture of the singer with an accompanying story about "fake pics outrage".

Ms Dynamite - who Livesey accused of having a sense of humour failure - sued over the stunt.

He said the Cutting Edge documentary about the paper, shown on Channel 4, was a good illustration of his lasting legacy to the paper.

Looking back at his reign as editor, he said: "My job was unique. I was appointed as editor-in-chief at a time when there were a lot of changes and the papers needed modernising."

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