Robert Warren served under 17 editors at the News of the World and seven of them were present to pay their respects to him at a packed memorial service in the journalists’ church of St Bride’s, Fleet Street.
Warren, 73, retired from the paper in 2000 only to return shortly afterwards as ombudsman and executive editor.
His sudden death in January after an unparalleled 44 years on the News of the World prompted tributes from prime minister Gordon Brown and leader of the opposition David Cameron among others.
Those at St Bride’s today included former News of the World editors Bernard Shrimsley, Wendy Henry, Nick Lloyd, Piers Morgan, Rebekah Wade, Andy Coulson as well as the current holder of the job Colin Myler.
It was Coulson, now PR supremo for the Conservatives, who delivered the address.
He described how Warren began his career on the News of the World in 1963 – when it was selling eight million copies a week.
Coulson joked: “This was a fact which Bob would remind us of when we celebrated a sale of four million.”
He described how Warren played a part in countless News of the World scoops, most notably in the paper’s exposure of Jeffrey Archer for paying hush-money to a vice girl.
He was also closely involved in a number of royal exclusives, Coulson said, including the paper’s revelations about Princess Diana’s affair with James Hewitt.
Coulson said: “He had the most amazing talent for putting people at their ease – whether they were politicians, generals or bishops.”
Of Warren’s unrivalled stint as news editor of the News of the World, Coulson said: “He spent two decades sitting at the centre of the most sophisticated spider’s web in journalism.”
Coulson estimated that Bob Warren contributed to 2,070 editions of the paper during which time he “helped steer 17 editors away from the rocks of journalistic disaster”.
Warren was known for spotting and nurturing young talent – but was caught out when Piers Morgan, becoming editor of the News of the World at the age of 29, pointed out that he had been turned down by him for a job on the paper.
Coulson added, however, that while every Fleet Street newspaper had turned down a young Morgan’s request for work, Warren’s rejection letter was the only one to offer him an iota of hope, suggesting that he at least try sending a few stories in.
Among the young reporters who Warren nurtured through the ranks was Les Hinton, formerly a Saturday reporter on the News of the World, who went on to be News International chief executive before taking up the same job at Dow Jones.
Summing up Bob Warren, Coulson said: “He was a man who despite the difficult job he did for so long, operated on a different level from the rest of us – a level of good humour, politeness and civility.”