He was a hungry young local paper hack when I first knew him, and gratefully accepted the odd payment from The Daily Telegraph for his stories from Cornwall which I was able to use or develop.
He later prospered in Fleet Street, at the tabloid end, overcame a drink problem and played his prominent part in the New Labour project, rising to be Tony Blair's press secretary and attracting a fair number of brickbats along the way (the process leading to British commitment to the war in Iraq prompting the most serious of them).
I have never worked directly for a tabloid, rarely wish to abandon alcohol and, broadly speaking, always preferred Old Labour to the newer variety. So we do have differences.
No matter. Since he left local newspapers, we have spoken on the phone and met on a couple of occasions (in Skopje and Paris as it happens). He also kindly responded when his beloved Burnley were in the Premier League to questions ahead of a game against my own beloveds. Our relations have been cordial and professional; it would be misleading to put them higher.
Our differences leave plenty about Campbell - his books can be browsed at this Salut! Amazon link - for me to respect and I am not remotely unhappy to hear he has accepted a payout from News International for instances of phone hacking aimed at him.
The practice, of which I knew nothing before the celebrated case of the News of the World royal correspondent who went to jail, veered from deplorable to obscene, depending on the target. I even find it a huge struggle to approve of its use by journalists to expose wrongdoing, as one Guardian man did and as is glorified in the excellent new film of the Stieg Larsson book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
But what worries me a little is the sanctimonious posturing of so many, especially on radio and television, when looking at the current Leveson inquiry into press conduct.
Campbell was talking about his legal victory over Murdoch on BBC 5 Live today and mentioned what a great fan he was of the station. Earlier in the week, television reports of the Mail editor Paul Dacre's evidence to Leveson had assumed the obligatory shocked, detached tones when mentioning references to his newspaper's use of private detectives.
But hang on. Did the BBC not admit to Leveson that it, too, had been using private detectives? And on a pretty industrial scale? Why did the BBC's own report of Dacre not refresh viewers' memories of this? Clearly, there is sometimes a justification for news organisations to turn to such people; is only the BBC entitled to decide when this is the case?
And, yet again, how is it that television is always able to show footage to accompany derogatory reports about newspaper reporters and photographers standing on the doorsteps of the homes, gyms or places of employment of people in the news? Because TV was there too! And that includes colleagues of the Radio 5 folk to whom Campbell was cosying up. Someone directing TV news had decided the event as worth covering and dispatched the staff to do so, just as radio and newspaper executives had done.
Gathering the news is not always a pretty sight. It is often, even when not edifying to see in action, vital to our freedoms and values. Agreed, some of the news that is gathered is, frankly, not worth gathering at all if claims are to be made for the importance of the press in a democratic society.
But I have to say that no trade or profession could stand up to the intensity (and lack of cross-examination) of the Leveson inquiry without betraying some dodgy practices and procedures. Come in lawyers and accountants, policemen and politicians, builders and plumbers, sportsmen and entertainers, your time is up. In fact come in everyone who works for a living, and indeed those who have a living without working for it. Let us have a warts-and-all investigation of how you go about earning your livelihood.
My contention is that there are many more people in journalism, from local rags to the big nationals and TV networks, doing a difficult job with integrity and professionalism than there are rogues.
But for those inclined always to look kindly on the oh-so-decent broadcast journalists and regard those of us in print as scum, I offer this anecdote:
Some years ago, several young people had been killed when their overcrowded car crashed in the Home Counties. I was sent to the scene by the Telegraph.
It was a sad but hardly unheard-of sort of occurrence. It never seemed likely to me to make more than a basic 4/500-word report. A couple of other print journalists and a photographer were also there, along with a TV crew. There was little to do.
As I was about to leave, I noticed two young women approaching with flowers. I waited until they had set them down by the side of the road before quietly asking whether either wished to make a tribute to the loved one/s they were commemorating. One of the women identified herself as the sister of one of the dead. She made a short, dignified and uplifting comment about her brother. I apologised for having bothered them, and moved away; it had been a public gesture on their part and I considered my approach, though painful to me and potentially offensive to them, respectful, restrained and justifiable.
But spotting this, the TV reporter hurried over and repeatedly begged the victim's sister to say again what she had said to me, but to camera. This she emphatically did not wish to do. I intervened on her behalf, promising the TV man I would pass to him all she had said to me, but this was not good enough. He went on haranguing her, despite her distress and my own protests (supported by a local newspaper photographer), about his persistence. This was not a tenacious reporter pursuing a powerful, evasive individual; it was the cruel harassment of a grieving relative.
It doesn't make print good, TV bad. It does remind me of something Bill (Lord) Deedes's son, Jeremy, then managing editor of the Telegraph and a man who had also worked for tabloids, once said to me: "We are all essentially muddying our feet in the same water."
Yes, to an extent, we are. But there should always be ways of doing so without splashing dirty droplets over everyone else.
None of this justifies phone hacking, for which appropriate punishments exist and should be applied to those directing such methods rather more than to those who meekly obeyed their commands.
But Lord Leveson would do well to adopt a sense of proportion when deciding what to do about two sorts of practices: those that are indefensible and need to be stamped out, by law or self-regulation or a mixture of the two, and those that must be accepted as the occasionally heavy or ugly price of ensuring vital freedoms, and checks and balances, in a regimented society where, otherwise, the interests of ordinary people would be crushed.