Educated at Burnley Grammar School, Altrincham Grammar School and Queens' College Cambridge, where he studied English with French.
Worked briefly as a community worker and then as a schoolteacher before taking up a career in journalism. Trained at the Keighley News and Bradford Telegraph and Argus, before joining the Financial Times as an industrial reporter.
In an 11-year spell on the FT, held a variety of positions, including Transport Correspondent, Labour Correspondent, New York Correspondent, Social Policy Editor, Resources Editor and Features Editor.
Left the FT in 1987 to be Managing Editor, then Director, of BBC News and Current Affairs - responsible for a major re-organisation of BBC network journalism on radio and television. Returned to the FT as Deputy Editor in 1990, before becoming Editor of the Independent in 1994. Editor of the New Statesman, 1996-98, when he took up position at Cardiff University as Director of the Centre for Journalism Studies.
Since stepping down as Director of CJS in 2002, Ian has undertaken a number of roles outside the university. He was Director of Corporate and Public Affairs for BAA plc from 2002 to 2006, leading the communications campaign which resulted in the acquisition of BAA by the Spanish company Ferrovial.
He also became a founding non-executive Member of the Board of the Office of Communications (Ofcom) in 2003. From 2006 to 2008 he was an Executive Member of the Ofcom Board, responsible for the regulator’s international activities and its work in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In 2008 he became Director of Strategic Communications at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, reporting to the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband MP. In 2009 he was seconded part-time to conduct a review of Creative Industries in Wales for the Welsh Assembly Government.