Peter Hill (journalist)

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Peter Hill (born 6 April 1945, Oldham, Lancashire)[1] is a British journalist and a former editor of the Daily Express

Early life and career[edit]

Raised in Saddleworth, he left Hulme Grammar School at 15 and worked in a woollen mill[1] before gaining employment in local papers in Yorkshire and the North West. He was a sub-editor on The Daily Telegraph by 1969,[2] but entered higher education in 1976 when he began a degree at Manchester University in American Studies and political philosophy, but left after an attempt to drop the former subject was rejected.[1] While doing his course he had continued to work in the newspaper industry at weekends, and returned to full-time employment by joining the newly launched Daily Star newspaper as a sub-editor.

Rising in status over the next two decades, he was appointed editor of the Daily Star in October 1998 by Lord Hollick, the former owner of Express newspapers, Hill increased the Star's circulation from 540,000 to 928,000, launched Daily Star Sunday, and became a What the Papers Say editor of the year award winner in January 2003.[3] Developing a positive professional relationship with Richard Desmond, after he had taken over Express Newspapers, led to a television advertising campaign, new sections, and the poaching of a football writer Brian Woolnough from The Sun whose salary at £200,000 was greater than Hills.[4]

Editor of the Express[edit]

Hill became editor of the Express in December 2003, taking over from Chris Williams.[5] Reportedly Hill alone, with Desmond's consent, chose to return the publication to being supportive of the Conservatives after its period of support for New Labour while owned by Lord Hollick and during the early Desmond years.[6] During his time as editor, Hill continued his newspaper's preoccupation with the death of the Princess of Wales and immigration, both editorial policies he thinks justifiable. Referring to the attitudes of his readers he was clear in a February 2011 Press Gazette interview: “I know they absolutely detest everything to do with the European Union. I know they’re deeply concerned about the enormous levels of immigration which have gone unchecked. I know they detest the idea of multiculturalism which is ghettoising the country.”[7] On the Diana stories he was quoted by The Independent newspaper in 2006 as saying: "I can tell you that people want to read about the Diana conspiracy because the figures tell me that they do ...the more we write [the articles], the more they are turning out to be true."[6]

One story the newspaper covered during Hill's tenure landed the publication with a successful claim for damages,[8] the paper's insistence that the parents of Madeleine McCann were responsible for their daughter's disappearance and other defamatory articles finally numbering about a hundred. This story was reportedly Hill's "obsession" in this period.[9][10] According to Nick Fagge, a former Express journalist who gave evidence at the Leveson Inquiry, Hill was unconcerned with the accuracy of McCann related stories, so long as they managed to "sell papers".[10] Hill asserted in February 2011: "I did too much on the story. I accept that."[2]

His last day as Express editor was on 18 February 2011.[11]

In public and professional role[edit]

Peter Hill was a member of the Press Complaints Commission from September 2003[12] until May 2008, a few months after the case brought by the McCanns;[13] his role had been under review.[14] Appearing before the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee in April 2009 he referred to the legal constraints imposed on newspapers: "We do not have a free press in this country by any means; we have a very, very shackled press in this country. Really you should be looking at means of removing those shackles not imposing more of them..."[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Roy Greenslade "Peter Hill's 50 years as a journalist after starting out in a woollen mill", The Guardian, 21 February 2011
  2. ^ a b Roy Greenslade "Peter Hill: 'I did too much on the Madeleine McCann story'", The Guardian, 21 February 2011
  3. ^ Jean Morgan "'Some redtop editors have lost the plot': Hill", Press Gazette, 10 January 2003
  4. ^ David Lister "Desmond gets his chequebook out for the lads", The Independent, 16 January 2001
  5. ^ Lisa O'Carroll and Ciar Byrne "Desmond 0 Dacre 1", The Guardian, 12 December 2003
  6. ^ a b Raymond Snoddy "Peter Hill: An appetite for battle", The Independent, 29 February 2006
  7. ^ Ciar Byrne "Peter Hill: 'Express is world's greatest newspaper'", Press Gazette, 8 February 2011
  8. ^ Owen Gibson and Esther Addley "Newspapers apologise to McCanns", The Guardian, 20 March 2008
  9. ^ Lisa O'Carroll and Jason Deans "Daily Express editor was 'obsessed' with Madeleine McCann story, inquiry hears", The Guardian, 21 December 2011
  10. ^ a b Marta Cooper "Daily Express editor was 'obsessed' with Madeleine McCann story, inquiry hears", Index on Censorship Free Speech blog, 21 December 2011
  11. ^ Dominic Ponsford "Express editor Peter Hill on his amazing 50-year-career and his regret over Madeleine McCann", Press Gazette, 18 February 2011
  12. ^ Dominic Ponsford "Star editor Peter Hill joins the PCC", Press Gazette, 19 September 2003
  13. ^ Stephen Brook "Express editor leaves press watchdog", The Guardian, 15 May 2008
  14. ^ Stephen Brook "Express editor may lose PCC post", The Guardian, 20 March 2008
  15. ^ Examination of Witness (Peter Hill) Q740, "Press standards, privacy and libel - Culture, Media and Sport Committee", parliament.uk [Hansard], 28 April 2009
Media offices
Preceded by
Phil Walker
Editor of the Daily Star
1998–2003
Succeeded by
Dawn Neesom
Preceded by
Chris Williams
Editor of The Daily Express
2003–2011
Succeeded by
Hugh Whittow