Randall was born in Norwich and studied Economics at Clare College, Cambridge.
While at Clare, Randall was recruited to write for the student newspaper Varsity by then editor Jeremy Paxman. After a brief stint as a professional comedian and a brand manager at a cosmetics company, he joined the Croydon Advertiser as a trainee reporter in 1974 and became the paper's editor in 1980.
Randall is the author of The Universal Journalist. In a review of the book in the British Journalism Review, Ann Leslie stated "How I wish this book had been around when I was a young reporter." In the book Journalism, Ethics and Society, Dr David Berry labels Randall a "prominent critic of the debate" concerning journalistic ethics and quotes Randall as arguing in The Universal Journalist that "the objectives and resolutions of ethical debates are unrealistic in the real world of practice [of journalism]."
He is also the author of The Great Reporters, which profiles thirteen reporters he regards as being the best the trade has ever produced. The reporters included:-Edna Buchanan, of the Miami Herald and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize is amongst the reporters profiled in the book. Others are William Howard Russell, Hugh McIlvanney, Ann Leslie, and A. J. Liebling.
- The Universal Journalist - David Randall's Biography
- Dr David Berry (28 December 2012). Journalism, Ethics and Society. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 111–2. ISBN 978-1-4094-9151-4.
- Leslie, A. (2007). "Book Review: Bear facts: The Universal Journalist, by David Randall (Pluto Press, pp245, 15.99)". British Journalism Review 18 (4): 85–86. doi:10.1177/09564748070180041203. ISSN 0956-4748.
- The Greatest Reporters - Media - News - The Independent
- Annie Lawson (September 19, 2005). "Inside Edge". The Age. "Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Miami Herald crime correspondent Edna Buchanan was among the journalists to feature in David Randall 's new book, The Great Reporters"
- Christopher Hirst; Boyd Tonkin (October 7, 2005). "Paperbacks". The Independent. pp. 26–7.