Andrea Catherwood: My Life In Media

'I scarily relate to Lynette in 'Desperate Housewives'. I think that's why I'm rushing back to work'
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The Independent Online

Andrea Catherwood returned to presenting the ITV Weekend News last week after giving birth to twins eight months ago. Now 38, she was born and raised during the Troubles in Northern Ireland and has been in the business since she was 16, reporting from conflict areas including Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, where she was injured by shrapnel from a hand grenade. She lives in London with her husband Gray Smith, a lawyer, her two-year-old son and new twins.

What inspired you to start a career in the media?

I grew up in Northern Ireland and the news was really important. It was always something that we were quiet to watch at home. I wanted to be part of that and when I was 16 I won a BBC Northern Ireland competition for Young Presenter of the Year, which just started me on the right track.

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

The Daily Telegraph and The Belfast Telegraph, the local evening paper. At that stage I didn't read the sport or business and I always got into trouble with my father for not folding the newspaper properly.

What were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

When I was 15 I was still being driven to school by my father who insisted that we listen to Terry Wogan. What's really scary is that I sometimes catch myself hearing him on Radio 2 now and it makes me feel quite nostalgic. On television I liked Fame and Top of the Pops on Thursday nights and I really liked The Professionals. Martin Shaw was just fantastic.

What media do you turn to first thing in the morning?

I wake up to Radio 4 and then I go and feed my twins so they wake up to Radio 4 as well. We'll have to wait and see if that works better for them than listening to Terry Wogan did for me.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

I always look at The Times on the way into work and in the office we look at all the papers, have a couple of news channels on and I also look at the news wires - Reuters, PA and Associated Press. At home I don't use the internet much but if there's an American story I'll always go to CNN, ABC or NBC.

What's the best thing about your job?

The privilege of being invited into other people's homes all over the country and sitting in their living rooms every night.

And the worst?

As a presenter you know that if you make a huge mistake millions of people are going to see it - the potential for screw-up is huge.

What is the proudest achievement in your working life?

The reports that we sent out of Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan in 2001. It was sealed off and we got through from Uzbekistan. We were the only British television news in there so we sent the only pictures out.

And your most embarrassing moment?

When I was presenting in Asia I was talking to a business analyst from Vietnam and I hadn't been told who he was before his name came up on autocue. I couldn't even make a stab at pronouncing it. As he was sitting beside me I had to say to him, "I'm so sorry, I can't pronounce your name." I must say I felt pretty stupid.

At home, what do you tune in to?

A lot of Radio 4. Obviously I watch the 10.30 news on ITV and I watch the Channel 4 News at 7pm because that's a good time to watch television once the kids have gone to bed. I enjoyed Friends and I scarily relate to Lynette in Desperate Housewives, the one with the twins. I think that's why I'm rushing back to work.

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

We get The Sunday Times and probably the Sunday Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday as well. I'm a bit of a newspaper junkie and never get time to read them all. We get The Economist delivered and I also read Vogue for a bit of light relief.

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

I'd like to cover extremely peaceful and very dull elections in Iraq.

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

I'd love to say that I'd be an artist but I don't think anybody would buy my work.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

I really enjoyed listening to Sue MacGregor and I was quite sad when she retired. I liked her strength of character without being too domineering. For her genre, Katie Couric, NBC's morning anchor, is pretty much the best in the business. She's been doing it for a very long time and I always tune into her when I'm in the States.

The CV

1985 Joins the BBC in Belfast as co-presenter of a youth affairs programme

1987 Aged 18, makes a documentary for Radio 4 about Northern Ireland's 18 years of troubles

1990 Joins Ulster Television as a reporter

1993 Moves to NBC Asia

1998 Joins ITV News reporting for News at Ten and Early Morning News

2000 Presents Five News' 6pm bulletin

2001 Returns to ITV News and is the first British journalist into Mazar-i-Sharif in Afghanistan

2003 Covers the war in Iraq as international correspondent. Now presenting the Weekend News