Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson went into the witness box today to defend himself against allegations of conspiracies to hack phones and pay public officials for stories.
Coulson, of Charing, Kent, followed co-defendant Rebekah Brooks as editor of the now-defunct Sunday tabloid between 2003 and 2007, the Old Bailey trial has heard.
In 2002, while Brooks was on holiday, Coulson, then her deputy, was in charge when murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler's phone was hacked, jurors have been told.
He resigned after former royal editor Clive Goodman and private investigator Glenn Mulcaire were convicted of hacking, the court has previously heard.
The 46-year-old former Downing Street media adviser denies one count of conspiring with Brooks, former managing editor Stuart Kuttner and others to hack phones between 2000 and 2006 as well of two counts of conspiring with Goodman and others to commit misconduct in a public office.
Coulson told the court he was born and raised in Essex. He left school at 18 and went to join his local paper, the Basildon Evening Echo.
He told the jury: "I was all set to join the air force – my father was in the air force and one of my brothers. I got some work experience on the local paper via a friend and fell in love with it really."
He went on to join The Sun at the age of 21, having done shifts there while he was still at the local paper, he told the court. While there he edited the Bizarre showbiz page, he said.
Coulson said many of the stories in the Bizarre pages came from contacts, whether they were celebrities, their PR agents, their managers, or those around them.
He said: "Contacts are the most important thing for any journalist, regardless of what area they work in."
He later added: "For me, the most important thing during my time at The Sun was to get the story but also to do it in a way to maintain a relationship. It was the way I worked."