James Desborough is a show business writer, media commentator and PR adviser who works in Los Angeles, New York and London.
As a correspondent he has interviewed celebrities from the worlds of sports, politics and entertainment. James has appeared on major TV networks, print publications and online websites worldwide.
He was named the Show business Reporter Of The Year at the 2009 British Press Awards. In 2014 he won two awards at the Southern California Journalism Awards - Online Personality Profile Article and Online Entertainment Feature. He also collected the runner up prize for the Online Entertainment News Category. In 2013, he was nominated as Entertainment Journalist Of The Year at the 55th So Cal Journalism Awards and was runner-up in the international news report category at the 55th SoCal Journalism Awards.
Desborough started work at the regional newspaper the Barking & Dagenham Post as a news reporter in 1994. The newspaper's past reporters include renowned editor Phil Hall, who later became the editor of News of the World.
In 1995, Desborough moved to Channel One TV – the Associated Newspaper's foray into local television. The station was a cable-only news and entertainment channel. After starting on the News desk, Desborough was promoted to entertainment reporter and later Showbiz Editor. The channel's senior executives included Nick Pollard, who later went on to head up Sky News, ITN news editor Peter Wallace and New York Daily News editor Martin Dunn.
Desborough worked for the channel's daily entertainment show The Biz, presented by Julia Caesar. During his time there he produced special programs and feature length interviews on Andrew Lloyd Webber, The Full Monty and Bon Jovi.
Desborough produced and presented specials on the film industry. The channel's other well-known reporters included Thomas Moore and Paul Brennan, TV host Ruth England and BBC Sports host Chris Hollins.
After Channel One TV closed in 1998, Desborough worked as a continuity host for ITV2 and presented a late night ITV1 London series Wired, which covered London's social scene.
Desborough worked as a freelancer diary reporter on the London showbiz and social scene from 1999 to 2000. In 2000, Desborough was hired by World Entertainment News Network (WENN) as the News Editor in London by CEO Jonathan Ashby. During that time he worked alongside former Sun reporter and author Bill Coles.
Desborough was hired by The People newspaper in summer of 2001 replacing their existing show business reporter Sean Hoare, who left to join The News Of The World. In the final weeks of his employment at WENN, allegations in an article published by Salon.com claimed that he had fabricated a quote by Sir George Martin relating to the health of George Harrison. WENN sold a story to The Mail On Sunday claiming that Martin said Harrison was close to death. The interview was conducted by WENN reporter Christian Koch. The story appeared under the byline of Katie Nicholl in The Mail On Sunday on 22 July under the headline: "George Harrison Is Close to Death Says '5th Beatle' Martin". After the story appeared Martin denied giving quotes about Harrison. In the next few months many more media outlets reported that Harrison's condition was worsening. Harrison died in November 2011. It was afterwards revealed that Harrison and wife Olivia had tried to keep details of the illness a secret. Later Olivia admitted, in a book and Martin Scorsese documentary about George Harrison's life – both titled George Harrison: Living in the Material World – that her husband had spent the summer months of 2001 preparing for his death. He spent time at a hospice and his last summer in Fuji. Time magazine revealed how: "Harrison eventually surrendered to throat and lung cancer. He and Olivia spent a last lovely summer in Fiji, preparing for the end and taking stock of their life together." Harrison passed away just four months after the Mail On Sunday article on 29 November 2001. Despite the original story being accurate, Desborough was subsequently awarded the "Can We Hear the Tape?" award for verbatim quotes at the mock honors Shafta Awards by fellow tabloid reporters as a result of this piece.
In 2001, Desborough joined the Sunday People as a show business reporter. He left in 2005.
While there, he broke a series of exclusives on British and international figures including Simon Cowell, Robbie Williams, Justin Timberlake, Michael Jackson, Nicole Kidman, Kylie Minogue and David Beckham. He also delivered stories on UK stars including Shane Richie, Barbara Windsor, Davina McCall, Jonathan Ross and Ant & Dec. In 2004, Desborough was promoted to the role of TV Editor. He covered a series of reality shows, primetime series and soaps for the newspaper including Big Brother, Wife Swap, I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!, Pop Idol and Celebrity Love Island.
He was one of the first reporters to interview Jade Goody, who elevated herself from reality series hopeful to an international celebrity as she battled cancer.
Desborough travelled across America with contestants in the hit show Reborn in the USA in 2003 and to Fiji with ITV to cover the first two weeks of the reality show.
News Of The World
In winter 2005, he moved to the News Of The World where he was a show business and news reporter. While at The News Of The World, Desborough covered major UK and international stories leading the news agenda. Many of those stories were then covered and reprinted in news media outlets across the globe. Desborough wrote exclusives on stars such as Simon Cowell, Madonna, Rod Stewart, Amy Winehouse, The Spice Girls, Ronnie Wood and David Beckham.
Desborough interviewed Mills' former manager Michele Elyzabeth, who delivered a two-week expose on Mills' conduct toward McCartney and her secret ploys to tarnish the rock star's reputation with the public. Elyzabeth told Desborough that Mills was "a lying witch", who misled the public over McCartney's financial donations to her and daughter Bea during their separation.
In 2007, Desborough conducted an interview with Britney Spears's bodyguard Tony Barreto talking about the pop star's drug and alcohol problems. After the story came out, a Californian judge handed custody of her children to her estranged husband Kevin Federline.
In 2008, Desborough wrote a two-week expose of Sharon Osbourne through the eyes of her brother David Arden. Arden made a series of allegations against Sharon including how she tried to allegedly fix The X Factor, secretly resented Simon Cowell and wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds on furniture, clothes and homes.
Desborough did an interview with Amy Winehouse's former boyfriend, Alex Haines, in 2008, detailing her addictions to crack and marijuana. Haines admitted that Winehouse planned to join "The 27 Club" – the list of famous musicians who died at the age of 27. Winehouse died at the age of 27 in July 2011.
In March 2009, Desborough was awarded The Showbiz Reporter of The Year Award at the British Press Awards. He was presented the award by Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow at the ceremony held at The Grosvenor House Hotel in London.
After his award, News Of The World editor, Colin Myler promoted Desborough to the role of U.S. Editor.
He moved to the U.S. in 2009, only a few days before pop star Michael Jackson died of a cardiac arrest caused by a drug overdose in Los Angeles. Desborough spent most of his two-year tenure breaking stories about the aftermath of the death of Jackson. His reports featured interviews with aides and family members, revelations about Jackson's lifestyle and doctor Conrad Murray's behavior.
In July 2009, Desborough interviewed Jackson's sister La Toya Jackson, who told him "Michael Jackson was murdered". Desborough appeared on CBS shows and TV networks around the world discussing the interview.
Desborough generated more headlines for the News Of The World when Michael's father Joe Jackson blamed his wife Katherine for the death of their son. Other exclusives included the first picture of the bedroom and chaotic scene where Jackson died, reports from the paramedics that Jackson was dead before they arrived and hospital emergency room doctors confirming Murray withheld details of Jackson's Propofol intake when they treated him. Desborough revealed how Jackson's mental and physical state was poor in his last weeks alive. He revealed he needed a golf cart to get him on stage and even used a double for rehearsals.
Desborough wrote several front-page stories on golfer Tiger Woods's affairs. He interviewed Orlando waitress Mindy Lawton, who discussed how Tiger started their affair when wife Elin Nordegren was pregnant. He revealed how the couple was to divorce and how the golfer continued seeing ex-mistress Rachel Uchitel after the cheating scandal broke publicly.
Desborough reported on California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's secret affair with his housekeeper Mildred "Patty" Baena. He published the first pictures of his secret son Joseph at family functions.
Other notable stories included Elton John adopting his first child, Simon Cowell's X Factor US launch, Robbie Williams' Los Angeles wedding, Osama Bin Laden's assassination, David Beckham's legal fight with a Bosnian prostitute and Katy Perry's marriage to Russell Brand.
News International chief James Murdoch closed the News Of The World in July 2011.
On 18 August 2011, he was asked to assist with enquiries by officers from Operation Weeting, who was investigating editorial and management over suspicions of phone hacking. Newspaper reports confirmed that Desborough's arrest was printed on the Guardian's news website, before it actually took place. Later that day, an officer from Operation Weeting was arrested at his desk over suspicions of leaks to the media. On that same day, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Sue Akers, head of the Operation Weeting, inquiry into phone hacking at the News Of The World, said: "I made very clear the need for operational and information security. It is hugely disappointing that this may not have been adhered to." The Guardian, when asked if payments were made to police, said in a statement: "In common with all news organizations we have no comment to make on the sources of our journalism."
On 19 August 2011, Desborough's criminal solicitor issued a statement about the matter. Mr. Young issued a comment on behalf of his client: "He attended a South London police station voluntarily and by appointment with his Solicitor, Julian Young. He was interviewed for a number of hours and cooperated fully with the police in their investigations. He denied, and continues to deny, any conspiracy to unlawfully intercept voice mails or acting unlawfully in any way."
On 27 March 2012, the Metropolitan Police and Operation Weeting confirmed that "no further action" would be taken against Desborough. Desborough was the first staff employee of the News Of The World to be cleared after an investigation by the Weeting team.
Desborough issued a statement on 28 March 2012, which said: "I would like to thank my friends and family, especially my mother and father, for standing by me unwaveringly over the last few months. I am especially grateful to my solicitor Julian Young who has been nothing short of brilliant throughout. I look forward to resuming my career, after eight months on hold."
In an interview with Sky News Young said his client "could easily have been interviewed without being formerly nicked and fears his arrest was ordered in a bid to flush out a Yard detective suspected of leaking the latest arrests to a newspaper."
Since 2011, Desborough has remained in Los Angeles working for media outlets across the world. He has won awards for his work. He covers entertainment, Royals and sports stories. His stories are often cited across the world.
Through his freelance work, he was his nominated as the Entertainment Reporter Of The Year at the So Cal Journalism Awards. Desborough was named the runner up at the same Awards in 2013 for an exclusive article in the Sunday Express on Oscar winner Adele's move to abandon her world tour plans and miss out on a potential $100M pay day.
Desborough has written exclusively for many news outlets like Daily News (New York), Daily Mail, Radar Online, Sunday Express, The Sunday Times, Hello (magazine), NOW (UK magazine), Woman's Day and The Sun.
He has broken cover stories around the world on subjects such as the Duke and Duchess Of Cambridge and their family, Prince Harry's scandalous Las Vegas holiday, the Jackson family's ongoing legal battles, Justin Bieber's career and Downton Abbey.
Desborough has worked alongside brands and media personalities to obtain media placements. He has hosted red carpet events, media promotion junkets for TV and multimedia outlets including Channel Nine, Celebuzz and Channel 5 (UK).
In July 2014 he won two awards at the Southern California Journalism Awards - Online Personality Profile Article and Online Entertainment Feature and collected the runner up prize for the Online Entertainment News Category.
The Personality Profile was centered on former Apple founder Ron Wayne reflecting on his life after giving up a billion dollar job opportunity. It appeared in Daily Mail Online as the “The Unluckiest Man in the World”. Judges described the article "fascinating, sometimes heart-breaking profile of an optimistic American persevering through lost fortunes."
The Entertainment Feature appeared in DailyMail Online, revealing how Michael Jackson's ground breaking Thriller movie almost never got produced. The judge described the piece as "chock full of tidbits and details that I had never heard. Just as I was thinking about the zombie dance, there came photos and the video."
His runner up prize for the online news for his DailyMail Online piece about the Princess Diana movie and leading man Cas Anvar discussing the view the world had of Dodi Fayed.
Television and radio appearances
Desborough has appeared as a contributor and expert on many TV and radio shows around the world. He has covered a wide variety of subjects including Amy Winehouse's death, the British Royal Family, David Beckham, One Direction, Michael Jackson and his family, Tiger Woods and award season in Los Angeles.
In the U.S., he has made a series of appearances on E! News covering Prince William and Kate Middleton. Other notable U.S. appearances include Charlie Sheen's Hollywood Black Book presented by journalist Ian Halperin, Entertainment Tonight, HLN's Showbiz Tonight, BBC America and Fox News.
On 29 April 2011, Desborough was featured as a guest correspondent in the E! News studio with host Ryan Seacrest and former Spice Girl Mel B on their wedding day. Additionally, he appeared on a live E! News special with E! host Catt Sadler as the newlywed Royals landed in Los Angeles on their North American tour of Canada and Southern California in June 2011. He has appeared as a contributor on editions of E! News and True Hollywood Stories.
In the UK he has been a guest on numerous showbiz programs for the BBC, ITV (TV network), Channel 4 and Sky One. He has appeared in international specials on The Biography Channel providing insight on Sharon Osbourne and Colin Farrell. Desborough has been a co-presenter and an in-studio expert for many BBC Radio 5 Live reports, phone-in shows and live on-air broadcasts which have played around the globe.
Desborough has interviewed some of the biggest stars the world of public figures show business and sports. They include George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Sir Michael Caine, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Sir Paul McCartney and La Toya Jackson. From sports he has David Beckham, LeBron James, Lamar Odom, Paul Gascoigne, George Best, Shane Warne, Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Usain Bolt Significant public figures in include Tony Blair, John Major, Margaret Thatcher, Sir Richard Branson, Prince William.
- "Awards". 1 April 2009. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- Claire Rowe (1 April 2009). "British Press Award winners 2009". Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- Dominic Ponsford (25 February 2009). "Press Gazette British Press Awards 2009: The shortlist". Press Gazette. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- Gavriel Hollander (11 June 2013). "James Desborough: British journalism still best despite hacking scandal". Press Gazette. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- "Winners of 55th Annual SoCal Journalism Awards 2013". Los Angeles Press Club. 23 June 2013. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- Martin Lewis (3 August 2001). "The art of lying". Salon.com. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
- anonymous (7 November 2001). "BEATLE GEORGE 'VERY SICK'". NME.com. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Richard Corliss (5 October 2011). "Scorsese's George Harrison Doc: Within Him Without Him". Entertainment.time.com. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Dave Masko (9 April 2009). "George Harrison died peacefully discloses widow, Olivia, and how to do it". Huliq.com. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- "Beatle George Harrison dies". CNN.com. 30 November 2001. Retrieved 20 June 2012.
- Jessica Hodgson (1 May 2002). "The Shaftas: full list of awards". Guardian. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
- Jason Gregory (7 September 2008). "Ex-Publicist: 'Money Was Heather Mills Motivation For Marrying Sir Paul McCartney'". Gigwise. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
- Stuart Heritage (24 September 2007). "Britney Spears Bodyguard: Britney Scares Kids By Crying & Farting". Heckler Spray. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
- Katherine Thomson (28 December 2008). "Alex Haines Talks: Amy Winehouse's Ex Alleges Crack For Breakfast, Sex Mania". Huffington Post. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
- Dominic Ponsford, Paul McNally, Owen Amos (1 April 2009). "British Press Awards: Times is newspaper of the year". Press Gazette. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
- Danity (12 July 2009). "Latoya Jackson News Of The World Interview: "Michael Was Murdered"". Right Celebrity. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
- Danity (12 July 2009). "Latoya Jackson News Of The World Interview: "Michael Was Murdered"". Right Celebrity. Retrieved 19 April 2009.
- "Michael Jackson's Death Bed Pictures And Secret Funeral". Anorak. 2 August 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
- "Jackson Was 'Dead An Hour Before Paramedics Arrived'". Contact Music. 16 August 2009. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
- James Desborough (22 August 2010). "MJ 'feared he had heart condition, cancer and brain tumor'". Positively Michael. Retrieved 19 April 2012.
- "Former NotW U.S. editor James Desborough WON'T be charged after hacking probe arrest". Mail Online. 27 March 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- "NoW's James Desborough released without charge". Press Gazette. 27 March 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2014.
- "James Desborough: 'Looking forward to resuming career'". Press Gazette. 28 March 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2014.