What do you think is special or unique about the way Channel 4 News delivers the news?
We have an hour where most other TV news programmes have to settle for less than half that time. It means that we can go into subjects in depth and interview newsmakers at length. On the night the Paris attacks occurred in January we were able to devote more than half an hour to all that had happened and to exploring the implications. Most other news programmes could only devote half that time
Tell us more about your work and what we can expect to see in the future.
My work is changing all the time. Sometimes I will be out in the field reporting from a major news event as during the Gaza conflict last summer. Advances in technology are making it easier and cheaper to anchor the news from anywhere in the world. In the last year I have anchored from Greenland, Iran, Israel, Gaza and Paris, to name but a few. The big challenge for all UK journalists and broadcasters will be the General Election, not least because no one has a true sense of what will happen. But the biggest challenge is the evolving digital age. We are tweeting, blogging, facebooking and broadcasting. The working day is becoming ever fuller, fuelled in part by the growth of the social network which finds me regularly blogging and particularly active on twitter.
Where do you live and spend most of your time?
I live in Primrose Hill, North London and work near London’s Kings Cross. I cycle every-where – it’s efficient, it’s green, it keeps my blood pressure low, and my spirits high.
How did you end up working for Channel 4 News?
There have only been two main presenters of Channel 4 News. The first, Peter Sissons, started when the Channel launched in 1982. In 1989 he was nicked by the BBC and left in a night. I was pulled across from ITN’s News at Ten, where I was a reporter, and asked to fill in until they found someone up to the job. I was pretty grim in those early days – there’s a huge contrast between foreign reporting and anchoring a one hour news programme. At first I missed the excitement of reporting and felt I wasn’t yet ready to leave ‘the road’. I also couldn’t imagine ever getting the job permanently. Then I realised that if I didn’t get it someone else would and I’d have missed my chance. So I really worked at trying to secure it. Eventually after three or four months they ran out of options and had to offer it to me. Now I’ve been in the presenter’s chair for over 25 years.
How passionate are you about news and current affairs?
Extremely. Online and radio are my fore sources. I listen to radio news from 6.00am every morning and usually catch the midnight headlines before I turn in. I believe as journalists we can change the world. We can right wrongs; we can speak truth to power; we can give space to new ideas. It’s a magical job.
When you have spare time, what do you like to get up to?
I love painting water colours – it’s extraordinarily therapeutic – I get completely lost in what I’m doing, and forget everything else. I enjoy walking in the hills and like to play plenty of tennis.
Do you support any charities?
Yes I’m Chair of the New Horizon Youth Centre, a resource for homeless and vulnerable 16 to 21 year olds. I worked there before I became a journalist and have been involved for 40 years. I’m currently also Chair of Tate Members.
What has been your favourite OR most memorable news posting abroad and why?
Reporting the Iranian Revolution in 1979. An amazing insight into a great civilisation in turmoil, exacerbated in no small measure by ham-fisted interference by outside powers.
Where can you see yourself in five years’ time?
I hope I shall not be chosen to be the first news anchor to be sent into space – one of my recurring nightmares.
Describe your typical working day?
I leave home on my bike at 9.00am, pick up a tub of porridge with honey and raisins. Get to the editorial meeting for 9.30am and consume said porridge. Mornings can involve seeing contacts, attending informative events, or researching interviews. Another editorial meeting at 2.15pm, start writing scripts, help book interviews, deal with email, tweet, research, get made up, write my headlines, go to air at 7.00pm, 8.00pm post mortem on how the programme went.