Man of ‘The People’ Bill Hagerty scoops journalism’s most prestigious honour.

7 October, 2023

Former Fleet Street editor named Journalist Laureate 2023 for efforts far beyond the printed page.

Veteran Fleet Street editor Bill Hagerty has scooped a prestigious award for his lifetime of outstanding work both as a journalist and in his role as an active and passionate ambassador for journalism.

At the London Press Club Ball sponsored by the St James’s House Group, Bill, 84, was named Journalist Laureate 2023 – an award honouring excellence in journalism.

In their citation, London Press Club Ball co-chairs Robert Jobson and Ray Massey said: ‘Bill Hagerty truly is a man of The People – a newspaper he edited – and a worthy Journalist Laureate for 2023.

‘The award reflects not only his versatility and longevity, but also the tireless work he has done to promote journalism, journalists and freedom of the press, as well as his charitable work with The Journalists’ Charity for which we are tonight helping raise much needed funds.’

The event, organised by the London Press Club, raised a total of £25,000 for charity and good causes linked to journalism, courtesy of the event’s sponsors the St James’s House Group.

Bill collected his honour and the Laureate’s pen in front of a host of national newspaper editors, media executives past and present, and other leading media figures including former Downing Street press secretary Alastair Campbell who said Bill was a ‘terrific journalist’ with ‘a youthful zest for life, a real interest in people, and a love of storytelling’.

Receiving his award at the invitation-only event held at the Grosvenor House hotel on London’s Park Lane, Bill said: ‘I started out in this grand old trade covering, among other things, amateur football in east London. Sixty-something years later, having been around the block, and the globe, several times, I find my only regular gig is writing regular match reports on Brentford FC – Premier League admittedly, but football still. Funny old game, journalism.’

A journalist, author and editor with extensive experience as a writer and critic – from jazz, film and theatre to sport and politics – Bill was born in Ilford as a true ‘Eastender’ on St George’s Day – and Shakespeare’s birthday – just before the outbreak of war in 1939.

He attended Beal Grammar School, Ilford, after which, despite the best efforts of his dismissive headmaster to put him off, he started a long career in journalism beginning at age 16 with the Walthamstow Post and in 1962 with Reynolds News, soon to become the Sunday Citizen.

Twice an editor of Fleet Street newspapers – Sunday Today and in 1991 The People – he was also for a period acting editor of the Daily Mirror.

He subsequently edited the highly-praised media magazine British Journalism Review – of which he remains chairman emeritus.

He also edited all eight volumes of the unexpurgated diaries of former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Downing Street press secretary Alastair Campbell, who also worked with Bill at the Mirror group, and who said: ‘For a man in his mid-80s, Bill Hagerty retains a youthful zest for life, a real interest in people, and a love of storytelling.

‘These are the qualities that made him a terrific journalist, a newspaper executive it was always a joy to work for, and in my own case a diligent, detail-obsessed editor of my diaries, for which I will always be grateful.’

Bill’s passionate support for freedom of the press and the importance of journalism and journalists is reflected in many of his articles.

But he also likes to sprinkle a little stardust. As show business editor for the Daily Mirror he travelled widely from Hollywood to New York and to film locations across the globe to interview many star performers, including John Wayne, Richard Burton, Michael Caine, Roger Moore, Sammy Davis Jr, Gene Kelly, Neil Diamond and Joan Collins.

He has written two books on the British media, including ‘Read All About It – 100 Sensational Years of the Daily Mirror’, and in 2007 was selected by The British Library to contribute his life story to their Oral History of the British Press.

But his work goes beyond writing.

He is a former chairman and until recently a trustee of the Journalists’ Charity – founded by Charles Dickens to help journalists in need whether through ill-health, redundancy, or sheer bad luck.

He is also a director of the London Press Club, a past chairman of judges for its annual prestigious awards, and currently chairs the judging panel for the Cudlipp Award for investigative and campaigning journalism.

A father of three and grandfather of five, he lives with his journalist wife, Liz Vercoe, between Chiswick, West London and Southern Spain.

Though originally a West Ham fan, since living in West London he has for decades been a long-standing Brentford United supporter and season ticket holder and part of the Bees United Board for over 7 years, writing a weekly column for its website.

Courtesy of sponsors St James’s House Group, Bill was awarded a £5,000 Laureate’s prize, donating £2,500 each to the Journalists’ Charity and to the British Journalism Review.

The sponsors also donated £10,000 to the Journalists’ Charity, taking its total of received donations to £12,500, and £10,000 to the London Press Club to help support a wide variety of journalistic events and initiatives.

Bill is only the fifth recipient of the London Press Club’s prestigious Journalist Laureate honour, following legendary royal photographer Arthur Edwards MBE, the brilliant LBC broadcaster Nick Ferrari, Eve Pollard – one of the first women to edit a national newspaper – and long-standing Daily Mail Editor Paul Dacre, now Editor in Chief of Associated Newspapers.

Doug Wills, chairman of the London Press Club said: ‘Bill Hagerty is a familiar face to generations of journalists – known for his extensive work as a journalist and editor, and also for the vigorous efforts he has made to promote and protect freedom of the press, to nurture journalistic talent for the future, and as an ambassador for our trade. He is a worthy Journalist Laureate.’

Former Fleet Street editor, Chiswick resident Bill Hagerty, is named Journalist Laureate 2023

Guest blog by Julia Langdon for the Chiswick calendar  HERE