Carolyn Quinn: My Life In Media

'Most embarrassing moment? Talking to a filing cabinet rather than a camera during an interview. I'd lost my glasses'
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The Independent Online

Carolyn Quinn has presented the Today programme since 2004 and presents Saturday PM. After taking a degree in French at the University of Kent she joined the BBC Local Radio reporters' scheme. She moved to the BBC's political and parliamentary team in 1989 and became a political correspondent in 1994. She lives with her husband in west London.

What inspired you to start a career in the media?

Getting involved with hospital radio at Charing Cross Hospital - it started as a hobby and just developed from there.

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

The Daily Mirror and The Irish Post, and on Sundays usually The Sunday Telegraph. I read The Irish Post more assiduously later, when I was trying to break into journalism. I wrote some pretty ropy articles for the editor, Brendan MacLua. He took pity on me and gave me a tryout in a junior job.

What were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

Noel Edmonds on Radio 1. Greg Edwards' Soul Spectrum on Capital Radio.

On TV: Fawlty Towers, Starsky and Hutch, Nationwide, and I'll watch any medical documentary.

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

On Today shifts, I skim through all the papers in the car on the way in, to see what's playing big. Then there's a more concentrated look before and during the programme, particularly editorials.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

Constantly checking wires and using Google. Listening to/watching continuous news on Five Live, News 24, Sky...

What's the best thing about your job?

The amazing variety, access to the top names and experts in their fields, being there at key moments in history. Also working with terrifically driven, bright producers and reporters. And the great camaraderie.

What's the worst?

If you work on programmes like Today and PM, you have to accept they are really part of the nation's fabric and with that comes responsibility and exposure - make a small mistake and everyone knows it. Having to get up at 3.15am.

The proudest achievement in your working life?

Seeing how proud I've made my parents.

Your most embarrassing moment?

Talking to a filing cabinet rather than the camera during a down-the-line interview from Jerusalem. I'd lost my glasses and couldn't tell which was which.

Also, saying "Good evening" at 9am at the end of a Today programme.

At home, what do you tune in to?

I'm a "radio in every room" person, flicking between Radio 4 and Five Live. In the evening my guilty pleasure is Clive Bull on London's LBC.

I also like BBC Ten O'Clock News, Channel 4 News, Life on Mars, 24. And I'm hooked on The Apprentice.

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

The Observer, The Sunday Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday. New Statesman, The Spectator and my husband's Empire for the film reviews.

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

If they pick someone else for Desert Island Discs, my other big ambition is to present a major state occasion - a coronation perhaps? If not, I'd settle for test-driving something fast on Top Gear.

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

Probably use my languages in some way, though NOT teaching. In my dreams, a jazz pianist or a restaurant reviewer.

Who in the media do you most admire, and why?

Too difficult to single out any one colleague. I've long admired the Dimblebys for their longevity, authority, creativity, and immense calm and control even when mayhem is breaking out, on election programmes for instance.