Andy Coulson was already a reporter on the Evening Echo in Basildon when I arrived, way back in 1988.
We were both products of the Westminster Press Editorial Training Course – five months of lessons in law, local government, shorthand – and, of course, learning how to write for newspapers.
And for both of us, the Echo was our first job in journalism.
For a brand new reporter like me, starting my indentures, Andy was someone to admire. He’d started straight from school, so by then had three years of experience under his belt, and was an extremely confident and self-assured reporter.
In my first few days on the job, I went with Andy to an inquest. The difference in our approach was immediately obvious when we got back to the office and wrote our copy. Mine was short, factual, to the point, and probably really boring. His could have leapt from the pages of any tabloid, full of drama, tragedy and weeping relatives.
This is why, even at tender age of 21, he’d been spotted by the Sun, and was doing shifts on its showbiz column, Bizarre – then edited by Piers Morgan. It wasn’t long before he left to work there full time.
Occasionally he’d return, trailing the glamour of his celebrity contacts behind him, a star in the making. Even so, none of us would have predicted that he’d end up as editor of the News of the World. Even less so, as the Director of Communications for the Prime Minister.