Born February 10, 1934; Died February 2, 2012

Bill Anderson, who has died aged 77, was a journalist who moved from being a medical student to being editor of Scotland's biggest-selling newspaper.

As a young medical student he was not overly enthusiastic about autopsies and could never see the individuals as mere bodies on a slab, preferring to invent, for the rest of the class, fictional accounts of the lives of those with whom they were dealing.

But, when he was overheard by a tutor one day, it signalled a change of course that would take him from reluctant trainee doctor to editor of the Sunday Post – which boasted the highest readership by head of population in the world and one that he ensured always had human interest at its heart.

The incident, during his second year at Glasgow University, prompted the admission that medicine was not for him and he ditched his degree studies. After a brief job at Hartwood, the Lanarkshire psychiatric hospital, and a three-year stint in the army, he became a reporter on the Sunday Post and remained with its publisher, DC Thomson, for the rest of his career, earning a place in the Guinness Book of Records for achieving such phenomenal circulation figures.

The son of a steelworker, John Anderson, and his wife Bessie, he was born in Motherwell, the youngest of a family of four. During his schooldays, at primary in the town's Draffen Street and at Dalziel Academy, he was a bright pupil who won the English prize, was involved in editing a school newspaper and was just pipped to dux by his best friend.

It was his mother who had encouraged him to study medicine but once he gave it up he lost his deferment and became eligible for National Service. After those few months at Hartwood, which he hated, he joined the Royal Artillery and took a short-term commission. He became a lieutenant and served in Hong Kong for three years, during which time he did some writing for the South China Morning Post.

On his return home he applied for a job in the Glasgow office of the Sunday Post and very quickly established himself as an excellent reporter. He was the HON Man for seven years, taking on the role of the man who was never identified but who roamed the country exploring a Holiday On Nothing (HON).

It took him on some amazing adventures and his exploits, at home and abroad, included acting as an extra on the medical drama series Emergency Ward 10; setting up stall as a man who sold £1s for pennies (not hugely successful); being one of the first passengers to fly on Concorde and one of first journalists to visit Russia, albeit shadowed by security men.

As a newsman he covered crime, including the trial of serial killer Peter Manuel who terrorised the west of Scotland, and always acknowledged that the hardest thing a reporter had to do was to knock on the door of a family who had suffered a death.

He became editor of the Sunday Post aged just 34 and steered it to a circulation of 1.5 million. He always said the paper was about people and human interest and a major factor in his success was his knowledge of his readership. He knew them inside out.

His target reader was Mrs McGinty who lived up a tenement close in Glasgow and, if ever one of his reporters was unsure of anything they were writing, he would instruct them: "Ask yourself, 'Would Mrs McGinty be interested in that?'"

Although he was a man who could put the fear of death into his staff, he was loyal, diplomatic and wise, despite his ferocity, and would never ask his employees to do anything he could not do himself. Highly intelligent, he was also focused, enthusiastic and compassionate.

Mr Anderson was at the helm of the Sunday Post for 22 years – though he thought an editor should serve no longer than 10 years – and rebuffed approaches by various other companies during his tenure. He went on to become managing editor and set up Scotland Online, an internet company jointly owned by DC Thomson and Scottish Telecom, which later became brightsolid, mainly known now for genealogy.

For a hardened old school newsman, he was ahead of his time – predicting just how important the internet would be and embracing, and training in, the new technology required in a modern newspaper industry.

In 1991 he was made a CBE – referred to by his domino-playing mates as Chapping Both Ends – for services to journalism but was most proud of his Bank of Scotland Press Award because it was awarded by fellow journalists.

The first Scottish member to serve on the Press Council, now the Press Complaints Commission, he strongly believed that newspapers should be self-regulating and did not agree with taking freebies – unless it benefited the readers or the paper. Though he knew many politicians and had dined with Margaret Thatcher, he was also adamant that the proper relationship of journalist to politician was that of a dog to a lamppost.

Away from the newspaper world he relaxed by sailing and fishing and was adept at everything he turned his hand to, from gardening to DIY or single-handedly cooking a superb Chinese banquet. Above all he loved people and remained interested in them to the end.

Predeceased by his first wife, Meg, he is survived by his second wife Maggie, his sons Ewan, Graeme and Alan and eight grandchildren.