David Randall, author of The Universal Journalist, presents 13 in-depth profiles of the best journalists who ever lived - nine Americans and four Britons, ten men and three women, whose lives were full of adventure, wit and the ingenuity to bring the story home.

David Randall
was born in Ipswich, England in 1951 and educated at local grammar school. In 1970 he went up to Clare College, Cambridge University, to read economics, and was an frequent speaker at the Union Society. Invited to write a weekly column for Varsity by its editor, Jeremy Paxman, he contributed 'The Adventures of Druisilla Nutt-Tingler'.

After a brief spell as a professional comedian and assistant brand manager for a cosmetics company (two experiences easily confused), he joined the Croydon Advertiser in 1974 as a trainee reporter. After working as a reporter for various editions, he became successively sub-editor, deputy editor and, in 1980, editor, of the Croydon Advertiser, then the largest circulation local weekly in Britain.

In 1978 he began freelancing for national newspapers, working at The Sun and The Observer. In 1981 he joined the Observer's staff as deputy sports editor, where he wrote the 'Sidelines' column. This led to his first book, 'Great Sporting Eccentrics', published in 1985. In 1986 he became assistant to editor Donald Trelford, and in 1987 spent three months in California studying computer systems before returning to Britain to take joint charge of the paper's transfer to direct input. In 1987 his second book 'Royal Follies' ('Royal Misbehaviour' in the US) was published and later that year he was made assistant editor of The Observer, with responsibility for presentation. He also wrote a humour column for The Observer Magazine.

Between 1988 and 1993 he was responsible for the paper's news coverage, twice winning awards for the news pages and overseeing investigations into anapthalmia (so-called 'eyeless baby syndrome'), HIV contamination during blood transfusions, wrongful convictions for murder (two convicted prisoners released), and atrocities against the Marsh Arabs in Iraq. He was also a prime mover in the paper launching several appeals for Save The Children.

In 1990 he went to Kenya to redesign the Sunday Standard of Nairobi, and this gave him a taste for consultancy work, which he pursued full-time after leaving The Observer in 1993. In the next two years he edited supplements for Universal News which appeared in The Times, Los Angeles Times, Time magazine and Forturo in Spain; launched a Weekend supplement for The Moscow Times and reorganised their editorial and classified advertising departments. He also ran journalism seminars in Africa for the British Council, and in Russia and Central Asia for the European Union. These experiences led to the writing, in 1996, of 'The Universal Journalist', his anecdotal text book which is now published in eleven languages around the world. In 1994, he also ran the national Rwanda appeal for the Disasters Emergency Committee, helping to raise £36million in six weeks.

In late 1995 he went to Moscow to relaunch Kapital, the Russian-language sister paper of The Moscow Times. This led to him becoming managing director of Independent Press, publisher of both these titles, in 1995. He introduced colour supplements, new forms of advertising and also acquired the weekly St Petersburg Press, which was relaunched as the bi-weekly St Petersburg Times. In early 1997, Randall resigned to resume work as a consultant, completing projects on Moscow's evening paper, Vecherniy Moskva, and the paper Pushkin founded, Literaturna Gazetta.

In 1998 he joined The Independent as a news executive, and in 2000 moved to the Independent on Sunday, where he has been news editor and still is night editor. He also writes major news stories and a column – The Curious World of David Randall – for the paper. He has produced a completely revised edition of 'The Universal Journalist', and become a frequent lecturer and after-dinner speaker, making regular appearances to speak at international conferences. In 2003 he began writing a column on journalism for Italian news magazine Internazionale, and in 2005, ‘The Great Reporters’, his book studying the greatest reporters who ever lived, was published.

All text and logos copyright David Randall

Book cover images copyright Pluto Press