Martin Daubney was editor of Lads' mag Loaded from 2003-2010, and is now a contributor to The Sun and the Daily Mail
Hands down, Andy Coulson at the News of the World. It's fashionable to slaughter him now, but to me, in 2000-02, he was simply a great newspaperman. I was there during the hacking era as a sports columnist, and I can 100% assure you none of us drones knew what was going on.
I got a huge sense of pride and collective belonging at NoW I never had before nor since. When the presses rolled late on Saturday and your seat rumbled, you felt alive. I was proud to "be Wapping", which is why I regularly write for The Sun to this day.
Best pep talk
Again, it was from Coulson. My first day at NotW in February 2000 he took me in his office and prepped me on the story approach that made the paper tick. He said, "I don't want dog bites man. Or even man bites dog. I want dog drives van. Now fuck off and make me proud!"
Then he ushered me out with a flick of the wrist. It was hilarious, and weirdly instructive. I'll always remember that. I never quite got the same buzz from mags I did from papers, even in a madhouse like loaded where you could pretty much get away with anything – and put it on expenses.
I was peacefully sleeping on the floor in my loaded office one Saturday morning in 2004 when Sean Hoare (RIP) called me and told me the NoW had "nobbled" me for shagging George Best's wife, Alex, who we'd just shot for our cover.
He tipped me off there were paps outside the building, and that I should hole up for the day, so I ordered in a pizza and watched a Best of British Wrestling box set.
I called Alex and she horse-traded with Seany, offering him pics of her trashed house and car if they left me out of the story (George had gone berserk after she'd had an eight-hour lunch with me).
Mercifully, they capitulated. I'd only left NotW months earlier, which goes to show you, nothing got in the way of a good story back then, which I understood. The Sunday Mirror ran it the following week, but the notoriety was good for the loaded brand.
Best fun story
I won eight industry awards for editing and journalism at loaded, which few believe. But for sheer joyous, pointlessness, nothing tops the time we drove to Cumbria in a Transit van and "kidnapped" a scarecrow called Nancy. A pensioner had dressed it as a traffic cop to slow motorists that had been steaming through her village, and for some reason that riled us.
The "kidnap" made the local rags, but we took Nancy on a tour of London and to a Big Brother wrap party, photographed the lot and ran it as a news story. The police traced the van, phoned us, laughing, and we agreed to pay £500 to her parish charity for "distress caused". The old Doris wrote us a thank you letter!
I'd been loaded Editor two weeks when David Blaine holed himself up in that perspex box at Tower Bridge. Absolutely everybody was trying to think up a media stunt, so security was tight. I hatched the plan to fly a bag of McDonalds burgers up to him on a remote controlled helicopter, as he was fasting.
We hired the UK's top RC pilot, who'd just returned from a competition in Japan. This bloody helicopter had carbon fibre wings six feet across, and my Publishing Director said, "If that thing lands on anybody, Daubney, it will probably kill them, we will fire you, and you will go to jail for reckless endangerment".
But we went ahead, only for a security ape to snap the RC pilot's handset aerial, and the 'copter span wildly out of control. It crashed to terra firma in a car park, narrowly missing a Ford Sierra. Our stunt made press globally, even onto the Letterman show, and Blaine declared it the funniest thing of the whole event. You'd never be allowed to that kind of mad stuff now. Health and safety have seen to that.
Best piece of advice
If you want to be a personality journalist or Editor in the modern era, you'd better grow a thick skin – fast. Back in my day, it was almost Queensbury Rules. The men's mag Editors would sportily slag off each other's titles on ABC day in the Press Gazette, then buy drinks at the BSMEs.
Now, we live in the age of the trolls. You get a shit storm of Tweets, in real time, for saying anything opinionated. My advice? Don't take online feedback to heart, be dignified and never engage in a Tweet-off with the haters. Remember: you're getting paid to write, they're not. Tall poppies will always attract scythes.