Jameson in 2008
29 November 1929|
Hackney, London, England
|Died||12 September 2012 82)(aged|
|Cause of death||Heart attack|
|Occupation||Journalist, and after dinner speaker|
|Children||3 sons, 1 daughter|
Beginning his career in the media at the lowest possible level in 1944 at Reuters, he worked his way up the career ladder to become the editor of several British tabloid newspapers in the 1970s and 1980s. Later, he was a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio 2 for nearly a decade and a half, including an on-air partnership with Ellen, his third wife, and became a familiar television personality.
He was described, when his profile was at its highest, as "the second most famous man in Britain - after Prince Charles" by Auberon Waugh.
Born in Hackney, London, Jameson was illegitimate and grew up in a private children's home where conditions were poor, with five children sharing the same bed, which was bug-ridden. He never knew with certainty who his father was and discovered at 8 that his supposed elder sister, Elsie, was actually his mother.
As a child, Jameson was evacuated from London to Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire during the Second World War. His formal education included a period at a borstal; his youthful activities had included shoplifting.
His career began in Fleet Street, as a messenger boy at Reuters, and he became a trainee reporter in 1946. That year he became a member of the Communist Party, and acquired the nickname of the "red menace" as a result. This political involvement almost ended this employment at Reuters, but his call-up for national service intervened. By the time his period in the Army ended in 1951, during which he was stationed in Vienna, he had left the Party. Jameson returned to Reuters, where he remained until 1960, eventually becoming chief sub-editor. After a brief period as the editor of the London American, a London weekly with Arthur Christiansen as the publication's consultant, he joined the Daily Express for the first time in 1961.
After working in the features department there for two years, he then became a picture editor for the Sunday Mirror. From 1965 he was assistant editor of the Daily Mirror, and from 1972 the northern editor based in Manchester. Later, in 1976 he became managing editor of the Daily Mirror newspaper, and introduced the paper's own photographs of topless models. He was appointed editor of the Daily Express the following year by its new proprietor, Victor Matthews, with whom he initially had a good rapport; the two men had a similar start in life. By the time Jameson left Express Newspapers in 1980, the title had increased daily sales by 500,000, a 25% increase.
In 1978, in addition he became editor-in-chief of the group's new more down market tabloid, the Daily Star (with Peter Grimsditch as editor). Jameson was involved in the publicity at the time of the launch, and it was aimed at the lowest end of the market, even below The Sun. He was quoted in one newspaper as commenting that the new paper would be "tits, bums, QPR and roll your own fags”, but while under oath several years later during his libel case, he insisted that this had been invented by the reporter. The Daily Star had achieved sales of a million copies each day a year after it had begun publication. By now Jameson had gained a reputation of being able to increase the circulations of tabloid newspapers, after ending his employment by Matthews over differences which had emerged. Matthews refused to return him full-time to the Daily Express, and Jameson was himself then (briefly) editing the Daily Star in Manchester.
He became editor of the News of the World in 1981. Rupert Murdoch, though, fired him in January 1984 after the publication of a story implying that Harold Holt, the Australian Prime Minister who disappeared from a beach in 1967, had been a communist spy. The Murdoch and Holt families had, in fact, known each other well.
Jameson's cockney accent and abrasive persona caused Private Eye to coin the sobriquet Sid Yobbo in his honour, although Jameson himself protested at such caricatures because he was an opera lover. Despite his success and affluence, he remained sensitive about his origins.
In 1980 the BBC broadcast a sketch in the Radio 4 programme Week Ending which described him as an "East End boy made bad" and that Jameson was "so ignorant he thought erudite was a type of glue". Jameson sued the BBC for libel, but lost the action when it came to court in February 1984. While the jury found the broadcast defamatory, they also considered it fair comment and Jameson had to pay costs of £75,000.
In 1984 he presented Do They Mean Us? a television series for BBC 2 which according to his Scotsman obituary was "a decidedly patriotic examination of foreign television networks’ British coverage".
He joined BBC Radio 2 in late 1985, sitting in for Jimmy Young, before taking over the breakfast show from Ken Bruce in March 1986, presenting it until December 1991. He then hosted the Monday to Thursday late-night show between 10.30 and 12.00 along with his wife Ellen, until March 1997.
In 1988 he began presenting the BBC1 television show People. He was replaced in the second series by Chris Serle, Lucy Pilkington, Jeni Barnett and Frank Bruno. He also presented his own television series entitled Do they mean us? on which he had the catchphrase; "Do they mean us? They surely do!"
Following the end of his regular broadcasting career, Jameson wrote a weekly column in the Brighton Argus until October 2000, and was latterly an after-dinner speaker.
In 1947, Jameson married Jackie, whom he had met during his Communist Party membership; she divorced him in the 1960s after suffering from mental illness. He married Pauline in 1971. In 1978 he left her for Ellen Petrie, to whom he remained married until his death at age 82 of a heart attack on 12 September 2012. He is survived by his three sons and a daughter from his first two marriages.
- BBC News: Veteran broadcaster Derek Jameson dies, aged 82
- "Derek Jameson, Fleet Street veteran and television star, dies at 82", London Evening Standard, 13 September 2012
- Dennis Barker Derek Jameson obituary, The Guardian, 12 September 2012. Retrieved 13 September 2012
- Derek Jameson's fond memories of Stortford childhood
- "Obituary: Derek Jameson, journalist and radio host", The Scotsman, 17 September 2013
- Emma Bamford "Broadcaster and journalist Derek Jameson dies aged 82", The Independent, 13 September 2013
- Dennis Griffiths The Encyclopedia of the British Press, 1422–1992, London & Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1992, p.334
- Michael Leapman "Derek Jameson: Fleet Street veteran and broadcaster who edited three tabloid newspapers", The Independent, 14 September 2012
- "Former editor tells of nude pictures Policy", Glasgow Herald, 15 February 1984, p.9
- "No pain, no gain". The Northern Echo. 1 August 2007. Retrieved 17 March 2009.
- Obituary: Derek Jameson, telegraph.co.uk, 12 September 2012
- Hooper, David (2000). Reputations Under Fire: Winners and Losers in the Libel Business. Little, Brown. pp. 234–41.
- "BFI Library: "People (1988)"". British Film Institute. 29 May 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
- "BBC One - The Young Ones". Bbc.co.uk. 2010-12-22. Retrieved 2012-09-13.
|Editor of The Daily Express
March 1977 - 1980
| Succeeded by|
|Editor of the Daily Star
| Succeeded by|
|Editor of the News of the World
| Succeeded by|
|BBC Radio 2
Breakfast Show Presenter
| Succeeded by|