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Peter Preston

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Peter Preston
Peter John Preston

(1938-05-23)23 May 1938
Barrow upon Soar, Leicestershire, England
Died6 January 2018(2018-01-06) (aged 79)
EducationLoughborough Grammar School
Alma materSt John's College, Oxford
Occupation(s)Journalist, author, and editor
TitleEditor, The Guardian
PredecessorAlastair Hetherington
SuccessorAlan Rusbridger
SpouseJean Burrell
Children4, including Ben Preston
RelativesJanice Turner (daughter-in-law)

Peter John Preston (23 May 1938 – 6 January 2018) was a British journalist and author. He was editor of The Guardian for twenty years, from 1975 to 1995.

Early life[edit]

Peter Preston was born in Barrow upon Soar, Leicestershire, the son of John Preston, a greengrocery business manager, and his wife, Kathlyn Preston (née Chell).[1] He grew up in the village of Quorn, two miles south of Loughborough.[1]

His father died from polio when Preston was a child, and he subsequently caught the disease; he spent 18 months in and out of hospital, including time in an iron lung. The disease caused permanent damage to his body.[2] He was educated at Loughborough Grammar School and St John's College, Oxford, where he edited the student paper Cherwell.[3]


Preston started his career at the Liverpool Daily Post in 1959, and joined The Guardian (then the Manchester Guardian) in 1963.[4] He rose to become editor in 1975 and remained so for more than twenty years, retiring in 1995.[1] He reported on Conservative MPs, including the perjurious Jonathan Aitken and the cash-for-questions affair involving Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith.[3] In both instances, a source was Harrod's and Paris Ritz owner Mohammed Al-Fayed. Preston was also editor when The Guardian was forced to hand over leaked government documents, which were then traced to a Foreign Office copier, leading to Sarah Tisdall, who was subsequently imprisoned under the Official Secrets Act 1911.[3]

He continued as a columnist for the rest of his life. He contributed a weekly column to The Observer, "Peter Preston on press and broadcasting", devoted mainly to news about newspapers, their readers and (generally) diminishing circulations in the newspaper's "business and media" section.[5] He was one of the founders of the European Press Prize and acted as chairman of its preparatory committee from 2013 until 2017.[6] He had strong opinions on Brexit and the balance of the BBC and continued to take to social media to discuss this after his retirement.[7] He was a member of the Scott Trust (owner of The Guardian and Observer) from 1979 to 2003, chairman of the International Press Institute from 1995 to 1997,[4] and chairman of the Association of British Press Editors.[8][9] Preston wrote two novels, Bess (1999) and 51st State (1998).[3][10]

Personal life and honours[edit]

In 1962, Preston married Jean Burrell, and they had four children.[1] His son, Ben Preston, is a former deputy editor of The Times[11] and Radio Times, and is executive editor of The Sunday Times.

Preston received honorary degrees from the City University, London, and the universities of Leicester, Loughborough, Essex and Roehampton.[12]

Preston died on 6 January 2018 after suffering from melanoma.[13][14]


  • Bess (Viking, 1999) ISBN 0-670-88765-X
  • 51st State (Viking, 1998) ISBN 0-670-88107-4


  1. ^ a b c d McKie, David (7 January 2018). "Peter Preston obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 January 2018 – via www.theguardian.com.
  2. ^ Preston, Peter (22 June 2002). "Peter Preston: good news on a bad day for one polio victim". The Guardian.
  3. ^ a b c d Ruddick, Graham (7 January 2018). "Peter Preston, former Guardian editor, dies aged 79". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b Turvill, William (21 June 2013). "Peter Preston reflects on 50 years of triumph and disaster at The Guardian and Observer". The Press Gazette. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  5. ^ "Peter Preston on press and broadcasting - Media". The Guardian.
  6. ^ "Peter Preston". St. John's College. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  7. ^ "Peter Preston obituary". the Guardian. 7 January 2018. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  8. ^ "Today's media panel". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  9. ^ Mance, Henry (7 January 2018). "Peter Preston, Guardian editor who believed in newspapers to the end". Financial Times. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  10. ^ MacAskill, Ewen (6 July 2018). "Paul Dacre delivers fond tribute to former Guardian editor Peter Preston". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 September 2018.
  11. ^ Stephen Brook, "Former deputy editor [Ben] Preston leaves Times", The Times, 4 February 2008.
  12. ^ "Alumni: Peter Preston". St John's College Oxford. Archived from the original on 8 January 2018. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  13. ^ Preston, Ben (7 January 2018). "My dad, Peter Preston, has gone: a long goodbye and a deadline missed for the first time". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 7 January 2018. (subscription required)
  14. ^ McKie, David (7 January 2018). "Peter Preston obituary". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 4 September 2018.

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by Editor of The Guardian
1975 - 1995
Succeeded by