Peter John Preston (born 23 May 1938 in Leicestershire) is a British journalist and author. His father died from polio when he was child, and he subsequently caught the disease; he spent 18 months in and out of hospital, including time in an iron lung. The disease caused permanent damage to his body. He was educated at Loughborough Grammar School and St John's College, Oxford, where he edited the student paper Cherwell. He has received honorary degrees from the City University, London and the University of Leicester (2003).
He joined The Guardian in 1963 and was editor for twenty years, from 1975 to 1995. He reported on Conservative MPs, including the perjurious Jonathan Aitken and cash-for-questions affair involving Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith. In both instances, a source was Harrod's and Paris Ritz owner Mohammed Al-Fayed. Preston was also editor when the Guardian was forced to hand over leaked government documents which were then traced to a Foreign Office copier, leading to Sarah Tisdall who was subsequently imprisoned under the Official Secrets Act 1911.
He continues as a columnist on political and social issues, also contributing a weekly column, "Peter Preston on press and broadcasting", devoted mainly to news about newspapers, their readers and (generally) diminishing circulations in The Observer's "business and media" section. He is chairman of the preperatory committee of the European Press Prize. He was a member of the (Guardian-owning) Scott Trust from 1979 to 2003, Chairman of the International Press Institute from 1995 to 1997, and Chairman of the Association of British Press Editors. Preston is also an author, with two novels, Bess and 51st State.
Preston's son, Ben Preston, is a former deputy editor of The Times, now editor of the Radio Times, and is married to Times columnist Janice Turner.