Alastair Stewart: My Life In Media

"I think we got [Beslan] right, and I managed not to break into tears, but it was a damn close thing on several occasions"

The ITV newsreader Alastair Stewart, 54, co-hosts London Tonight with Katie Derham, and presents Lunchtime News and the 10.30pm bulletin. This month he has been anchoring bulletins from Beirut. Since joining ITN in 1980 he has presented three general elections, Budget specials and live coverage of the Lockerbie and Challenger space shuttle disasters. He has four children and lives in Hampshire, with his wife, Sally, where he relaxes by listening to Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones. He was appointed an OBE this year.

What inspired you to start a career in the media?

I was offered a job! I had intended to qualify as a barrister and go into politics. An appearance as a guest on ITV as the deputy president of the NUS led to a job offer. Initially I rejected it, but I've never looked back.

When you were 15, what was the family newspaper and did you read it?

My father took the Telegraph and my mother the Mail. I can't remember us taking a Sunday. I read and admired the Telegraph, though I don't remember the fashion pages being as saucy as they are now. The Mail didn't seem as irritating or irascible then.

What were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

Top of the Pops. I was a mod. The Flintstones every Friday. On the radio it was weekend comedy. Radio 4's I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue is one of the funniest creations in the world. Desert Island Discs is good for chat and musical education.

What's the first media you turn to in the morning?

I have radios in the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, and I can't live without Radio 4's Today programme. It irritates, condescends and can be painfully self-satisfied. Despite that, it offers the most intelligent and comprehensive news "prep" for the day. I also put Ceefax on in the kitchen.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

On the train I scan the tabloids and dip in and out of most of the broadsheets; I read the Indy, Routledge in the Mirror and Kavanagh in The Sun; in the office I read PA and Reuters wires constantly; and The Guardian and BBC sites, plus government department and think tank sites. At the close of play, unless I am presenting it, I will watch ITV's 10.30pm bulletin and I tape Newsnight for a fast-spin-random-selection viewing before retiring with Radio 4.

What's the best thing about your job?

Being given the responsibility to have the first stab at making sense of major events for our viewers.

And the worst?

Being beaten by the opposition or hearing that resources are in the wrong place.

What is the proudest achievement in your working life?

I used to say broadcasting live from the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989: bulletins, specials, newsflashes - the lot. But I now think it was getting through Beslan in 2004, when the bombs went off and the surviving kids came out. I think we got it right and I managed not to break into tears, though it was a damn close thing on several occasions.

And your most embarrassing moment?

I missed a line on the teleprompter and said that a horse breaking loose at a three-day event had sent a "seriously injured" Diana, Princess of Wales to hospital. It was a spectator in fact, but my over-zealous and over-egged apology caused the real problem, as I implied Mrs Ordinary Person didn't matter as such as HRH!

At home, what do you tune in to?

News, Formula One motor racing, anything with Rik Mayall, and a lot that my older children insist on watching (usually Channel 4, but I'm thankful for The OC!). And lots of docudramas, an exciting genre that has yielded great stuff, ranging from a murder in the Alps to the volcanic threat beneath Yellowstone Park.

What is your Sunday paper and do you have a favourite magazine?

Most of them, but The Observer for business and The Sunday Telegraph for news. I enjoy Vogue and Harper's Bazaar - another, beautiful world away from the harsh realities.

Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire.

I am consistent on this one: I want to interview Mick Jagger about rock'n'roll, Europe and cricket!

If you didn't work in the media, what would you do?

I fear I would be reading low-yield briefs at the bar, but I might be girding my loins as a candidate for the general election.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

The Independent's Hamish McRae. His agenda, grasp of historic context and ability to put vital economic and political issues before his readers in an accessible fashion mark him out as good and important.

The CV

1976: Joins Southern Television in Southampton as a reporter and presenter

1980: Joins ITN as industrial correspondent

1983: Becomes a reporter-presenter for Channel 4 News; presents ITN's News at 5.40 and The Parliament Programme

1989: Joins News at Ten as a presenter, spends a year as Washington correspondent and anchors coverage of the first Gulf War, presenting News at Ten live from Saudi Arabia for two months

1992: Presents ITV's regional news bulletin London Tonight

1994: Starts a Sunday programme on GMTV and hosts Police, Camera, Action!, which runs for eight years

2003: Returns to ITV News and anchors coverage of the Iraq war

2004: Presents Live with Alastair Stewart for two years; wins RTS News Presenter of the Year in 2005

2006: Appointed an OBE

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Social Media Director (Global) - London Bridge/Southwark

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Social Media Director (Gl...

Personal and Legal Assistant – Media and Entertainment

£28,000 - £31,000: Sauce Recruitment: A Global media business based in West Lo...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice