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John Kay (journalist, born 1943)

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John Michael Kay (born 28 October 1943) is a British journalist who worked for The Sun newspaper for several decades.

Early lifeEdit

Kay, originally from Golders Green, was educated at Bootham School in York and continued his studies at Durham University (Hatfield College), where he served as Editor of Palatinate during Michaelmas term of 1963, having previously been News Editor.[1][2] His time as Editor was eventful. He was accused of reporting a fake profit to the Student Union for one edition of the paper, but ultimately cleared of the allegations.[3] An article he produced on 'black magic ceremonies' also attracted controversy, and was described as a 'nasty piece of pornography' by the Pro Vice-Chancellor of the university.[4] Despite this, the Student Representatives' Council (SRC), responsible for publishing Palatinate, gave Kay a vote of confidence and allowed him to continue as Editor, while condemning the offending article.[4]


After graduating from Durham Kay had his first job in journalism with The Journal in nearby Newcastle, where he was an Editorial writer (1965–67); Chief Industrial Correspondent (1967–68); and Deputy News Editor (1968–1970).[1] After a spell in London as a features writer for Thomson Newspapers he returned to The Journal in 1971 to serve as Business Editor.[1] He began working for The Sun newspaper from 1974, initially as a general reporter, then as Industrial Editor. He was appointed the publication's chief reporter in 1990. Twice named 'Reporter of the Year' in the British Press Awards, a Press Gazette feature in November 2005 identified him as the sixteenth most influential British journalist since the war.[5]

It was reported in November 2008 that Kay had been persuaded to continue working on The Sun past retirement on a full-time freelance basis but on the same salary as before.[6]

In February 2012, Kay was reported to be one of eight people arrested as part of the Operation Elveden investigation into alleged bribes to police and civil servants.[7] Kay was cleared at the Old Bailey in March 2015 of paying a total of £100,000 over a decade to a Ministry of Defence member of staff for assistance on stories relating to the army.[8] The Sun though, did pay the money to his source, Bettina Jordan-Barber, who was jailed for 12 months in January for misconduct in public office.[9] Kay has now left The Sun and retired.[10]


In 1977, Kay, who lacked confidence when going 'on the road' to interview people, suffered a nervous breakdown and locked himself in his hotel room shortly before the 1977 TUC Congress in Blackpool.[11] Returning home after the conference, Kay felt unable to resign because it would harm his career, but knew he was not capable of functioning as Industrial Editor either – so he announced to his wife that he was going to commit suicide. He decided that his Japanese wife Harue, whom he had married the year before, should die with him; having been disowned by her family for marrying a Westerner, she would be alone in the world without Kay, who drowned her in the bath before unsuccessfully attempting to kill himself through various methods, including hanging, putting his head in a gas oven, jumping out of a window (only to have his fall broken by plastic dustbins), and finally driving his car head-on into a bridge.[11] He was found by the police naked and covered in blood.[11]

Defended at trial by John Mathew QC, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility; this was accepted by the court. After a spell of treatment at a psychiatric hospital in Friern Barnet he was taken back on by The Sun on condition that he be confined to the office.[11]


  1. ^ a b c Kay, Ernest (1974). Dictionary of International Biography 1973. Cambridge: Melrose Press. p. 644.
  2. ^ "Editor". Palatinate (175): 2. 10 December 1963. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  3. ^ "Editor Cleared". Palatinate (175): 1. 10 December 1963. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Student editor to keep job". Birmingham Daily Post. 4 November 1963. p. 23.
  5. ^ "Press Gazette names top forty journalists of the modern era", Archived 17 May 2011 at the Wayback Machine Press Gazette, 25 November 2005. Retrieved 13 March 2008.
  6. ^ 'Axegrinder' "Sun chief reporter John Kay proves that some journalists ARE indispensable" Archived 11 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Press Gazette (blog), 27 November 2008
  7. ^ "Eight people held over payments inquiry". BBC News website. 11 February 2012.
  8. ^ Lisa O'Carroll "Four senior Sun journalists acquitted over payments to officials", The Guardian, 20 March 2015
  9. ^ Lisa O'Carroll "MoD 'mole' Bettina Jordan-Barber jailed over Sun leaks", The Guardian, 20 March 2015
  10. ^ Greenslade, Roy (3 September 2015). "What has happened to the 28 arrested Sun journalists?". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 September 2015.
  11. ^ a b c d Chippendale, Peter; Horrie, Chris (1990). Stick it Up Your Punter! The Rise and Fall of the Sun. Heinemann.