HOW WE MET

TREVOR McDONALD AND DAVID MANNION
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The Independent Culture
Trevor McDonald, 57, was born in Trinidad. The main presenter of ITN's News at Ten, he joined the BBC World Service in 1969. A former ITN diplomatic editor, in 1990 he was the first British journalist to interview Nelson Mandela after his release from prison. He has two children from his first marriage; he lives in London with his second wife and their son.

David Mannion, 46, is a broadcast consultant. He joined ITN as deputy news editor in 1979, and launched Channel 4's first breakfast service. During the four years in which he was editor of ITN programmes on ITV, ITN won the Bafta award for news coverage each year. Divorced, with one son, he lives in Fulham

Trevor Mcdonald: TV news journalism is a small world. Before David Mannion joined ITN, I already knew of and admired his work at Central TV. When he joined us in 1979 as the deputy news editor, I was suddenly aware of this bustling presence around the place. He caused quite a stir because he's an irrepressible person who creates waves of excitement and enthusiasm around an organisation. He has a reputation for getting things done.

He's an instinctive journalist, and as a news editor he always had half a dozen views of a story. He has a sixth sense about television and knows what people want. Dave was the first one to get a camera into Mrs Thatcher's car, but his talent is far more than knowing how to make best use of all the new technology. The force of his personality gets people around him going that extra mile for him.

There has to be a partnership between a journalist and the news editor, so it's not entirely surprising that we became friends. Everyone has ideas and something to contribute. By consensus you decide how a story should be done. There's no sense of triumphalism; anyone doing it who considers themselves a TV star is either naive or a bloody fool.

Our relationship became much closer on news trips together around the world, especially when we covered Mandela's release from prison in 1990. South Africa was where my admiration for him both as a human being and a professional journalist grew enormously. The two of us were stunned into silence by Mandela's refusal to show any bitterness about what he'd been through. It had a profound effect on Dave, who told me afterwards that he felt there was a real possibility of a peaceful transition from apartheid to some kind of democratic process.

Because David Mannion is the kind of man he is, he ended up helping the South Africans organise the media who had turned up to cover the release. In their naivety, the officials thought maybe 30 or 40 journalists would turn up, but there were more like 500, and the officials were very grateful for Dave's advice on how to handle the Press. I would imagine that, like most people who meet him for the first time, they thought, "What a nice man. He's someone we can trust." I don't know if Dave's even remotely aware of the charisma he exudes.

For both of us, apartheid was grotesque and obscene, but I was able to be more analytical about it. The injustices had a very powerful effect on David because, although he can be very tough, he is also a man of great humility with a strong sense of humanity. He cries easily, and powerful stories of oppression and persecution, particularly where children are involved, affect him deeply. In one of the townships outside Pretoria, we went to see a priest, Father Makashawa. All around us children were suffering from malnutrition and TB. It was an awful story and I felt the camera should be restrained - the viewers aren't fools - there was really no need to exaggerate what was a terrible situation. Father Makashawa was very co-operative, but Dave couldn't understand it, and said to him, "I'm puzzled. I'm a white man - why are you guys treating me so well?" His reply was, "We're not a very simplistic people. We don't make judgements simply on the colours of peoples' skins."

Because of my schedule, which is five nights a week, the opportunities for seeing David are limited, but we speak to each other on the phone, and we often have dinner together. The last time we met, I organised a surprise evening for David's birthday, with a couple of bottles of champagne, at The Ivy. We also make the time to play a lot of tennis - more for the camaraderie than winning.

In his role as a senior ITN editor, Dave had to do something which he absolutely loathed - making people redundant. I remember once, on one of my days off, David phoned me. We were talking about various things, but I didn't really understand why he'd called. He wasn't ringing me as a news editor, and I was puzzled. In the end, I said, "Dave, why the hell have you called me?" He told me that he found it intolerable to have to be so unpleasant to people, and that he needed to talk to somebody he was close to who would understand. That is quintessential Mannion. If ever you were in trouble, he's the first person you would want to call.

David Mannion: When I joined ITN in 1979 as a deputy news editor, Trevor was a general reporter on what we call the Taxi Rank, which basically means waiting to be assigned a story and then going off to cover it. As his news editor, I would sometimes have a drink with him, but we weren't particularly close. Our friendship developed over the years, when I moved on to edit ITN's News at One , Channel 4 News and News at Ten. From the first time we ever worked together, I realised that Trevor was a very good, very stylish reporter. He was one of many outstanding reporters, including Michael Nicholson, Michael Brunson and Peter Snow. In 1992, when I made the decision that Trevor should be the main presenter of News at Ten, I had to put our friendship to one side and ask myself: "Is Trevor the right man for the job?" not: "I want him to do it because he's my close friend." There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that he was the right man.

One of the basic feelings I share with Trevor is how fortunate we are in the jobs we do. We grew up thousands of miles apart but, in many ways, our upbringings were quite similar. Neither of us is from families that was well off, but they were both supportive families with a sense of values. I never dreamt I'd do the things I've been privileged to do, and I suspect Trevor didn't, either. After all these years, neither of us has lost that sense of excitement about working in news journalism and wanting, in a sense, to give something back. Trevor is a generous person; he gives a great deal of his free time quietly doing things to help people "behind the scenes".

Trevor has an absolute passion for cricket, and sport is one of our shared interests. He has covered a lot of sporting stories in his time, but however much he wanted to do something, the most important thing for both of us was: "Will this make a news story?" and not: "Trevor will have a wonderful time doing this." He'd have loved to have been sent all over the world writing about cricket, but the game and our friendship always came second to our professional judgement that there might be more news value in another story somewhere else.

We've travelled together on assignments and always enjoyed each other's company, usually laughing at life and the world in general. Our friendship was cemented in February 1990, when we both went back to South Africa to cover Nelson Mandela's release from prison. Trevor was the first black reporter allowed into South Africa and had been there several times. When you witness something as evil as apartheid, as a journalist you still have to remain objective. You instantly have to recognise which tool to use - diplomacy or cruder techniques - to get what you need. Trevor is a very polite man, and people respond to him. Having front-row seats to witness such an important historical development was something neither of us will ever forget. I don't normally assign myself out of the country, but I wanted to be there with Trevor.

I ended up with Trevor in Mandela's tiny Soweto house, waiting to meet him and do the interview there. We'd worked incredibly hard planning the interview, and it was the most fantastic day in both our journalistic lives. Before Trevor started the interview, Mandela asked if we would please excuse him for a moment, because he needed to say something to all the kids outside his house. He went out and told them, "You've all seen me, and I'm here, but I've got a lot of work to do, so go back to your schools and your learning so that one day you can do that work." It took an enormous effort for the two of us not to be star-struck in Mandela's presence.

That night, Trevor was hosting News at Ten from an outside broadcast lorry in Soweto; and Desmond Tutu - who has a little house there - took no persuading when we asked him if he'd be a guest on the programme. I went to collect him 15 minutes before the broadcast. We were only about 100 yards from our broadcast lorry, but the street was a sea of people dancing and singing. We literally had to fight our way out of his house, and I was seriously worried that the Archbishop of Cape Town was about to be trampled to death. He's only a small man, and I was clinging on to him when the crowd suddenly hoisted him up, taking me up with him on his coat-tails. From the lorry, Trevor could see me being carried like a white God. Once he realised what was happening, the two of us burst into hysterical laughter. The reality of having to do News at Ten live hit us and we just about managed to pull ourselves together.

Trevor's a very loyal friend. He's also a devoted father. I think the fact that we've both been through a divorce and have young sons is another reason that our friendship is as close as it is. Trevor is the kind of friend everyone should have. People often say to me, "What's Trevor McDonald really like?" He's decent, honest, human, full of integrity. And he keeps his shoes polished, too. !

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