After failing to start a career in acting, Hilton trained as a journalist with the Daily Mirror before becoming a news reporter with the Sunday Mirror. She took several years out of the media when her children were born, but started freelancing articles about parenthood for magazines, then wrote the Great Ormond Street Book of Child Health.
In 1985, Hilton returned to regular employment at Mother magazine, then in 1987 she moved to the Today newspaper. She was promoted to Features Editor and then to Assistant Editor before moving to become editor the "Femail" section of the Daily Mail.
Hilton became Assistant Editor at The Sun in 1994, then Editor of the Sunday Mirror briefly in 1995, before moving to become Deputy Editor of the Daily Express. At the Express, she launched the Saturday magazine, then the Sunday Boulevard magazine. In 1999, she became Editor-at-Large at Woman & Home magazine.
- Scott Hughes, "CV: TESSA HILTON Deputy editor, The Express", The Independent, 14 April 1997
- "Media: The Word on the Street", The Independent, 13 July 1999
|Editor of the Sunday Mirror
|Deputy Editor of the Daily Express