David Willetts: a father’s sacrifice to strive for success

David Willetts shares his tale of strength and determination in becoming the Defence Editor for Britain’s top-selling newspaper, The Sun, whilst juggling the responsibilities of fatherhood.

Sat across me in the cafeteria of News UK, Willetts drinks his white americano and begins reminiscing about his childhood. He grew up in a small market town in rural Northamptonshire called Raunds. Although, he confessed he doesn’t remember much about growing up there apart from it having the countries smallest zebra crossing.

He currently resides in South-East London with his wife, Amy and two kids, aged six and three.

Like any good parent, “[he] starts by dropping off the kids to school.” Then in the evening he said, “I leave at six-ish and then I pick up the kids, bath them, feed them and go to bed.”

Consequently, his busy schedule doesn’t give him time to relax. He chuckled and said, “I got two kids, so hobbies don’t exist.”

David moved to London after he received his English degree from the University of Portsmouth, he said, “A friend suggested I do journalism, so I tried to get into journalism college, and I failed the first time. Then I tried another one in London and they let me on the course.”

“You’ve just got to work hard and hope for the best.”

“Often, I’m not the most talented person in the room, but I never said no so I was always willing to go do stuff and I was always enthusiastic. I remember when I first started at The Sun and we were all in competition to get that job and whenever the news editor said, ‘There’s this going on’, they sort of groaned. I was always like, ‘No, I’m going. I’ll do it’. 

He’s had to make a few sacrifices, “I’ve missed weddings, I’ve missed birthdays, I missed my surprise 30th birthday. I missed it all.”


David’s slightly unhealthy drive to be the best was clear, “In the early days there was no work-life balance, there wasn’t. There was just work but that was okay because I was pretty obsessed about it and I didn’t mind.” He admitted, “It was hard, it was tough.”

Over the past 11 years, he’s had several front-page stories and written hundreds more, ranging from Afghanistan to Parliament, but the ones he regrets the most are the Baby P stories, “I think a lot of the coverage was misguided and I think we got it wrong but that wasn’t necessarily my decision. This is a sort of toll on your conscience.”

He then sheds light on the obstacles he’s faced throughout his career at The Sun. “I think the biggest obstacle, to begin with, was how demanding the job was. And I still think a big obstacle is how demanding it is. Your phone is never off. You’re never off work and that does after a while exhaust you.”

Regardless, his sacrifices have been worth it, “It was tough but it’s different now. I’m more established and I don’t have to prove myself anymore.”

“I’m happy. No regrets.”