CV; MICHAEL BUERK Newscaster and presenter of `999'

`MY INTERVIEW WITH THE EDITOR OF THE "BROMSGROVE MESSENGER" DIDN'T GO ANYWHERE UNTIL I MENTIONED I PLAYED CRICKET - THEN HE GAVE ME THE JOB'

When I was at school, in the early Sixties, I thought I would get a commission in the RAF, but I failed the medical because of poor eyesight. Not really knowing what to do after that, I ended up working as a hod-carrier on a building site, but soon decided that physical work wasn't for me.

I then thought I'd better find a job with which I could hold my head up high in the boozer when my friends came home from college in the holidays. Journalism sounded OK - trendy and bohemian - and so I dug out a reference- library copy of Willings Press Guide to get the addresses of about 100 newspapers. I got stock rejection letters from 99 of them, but one weekly paper near where I lived - the Bromsgrove Messenger - invited me for an interview. The editor had a passion for cricket, and the interview didn't really go anywhere until I mentioned that I played cricket myself - then he gave me a job. I didn't do very much there - I remember ghosting the "Field, Wood and Hedgerow" column - but after deciding I should be on something bigger, I got on to the Western Mail and Southwest Echo's graduate training scheme in Cardiff.

After a couple of years there I went to The Daily Mail, working mainly in Manchester, where I had to follow George Best around the city's nightclubs. But I suppose I wanted something grander than that, and I saw that the BBC was advertising for new producers for the local radio stations it was just starting up. I got a job at Radio Bristol, where I doubled my salary and met Kate Adie, who was starting as the women's programmes producer.

I did a year there, and was then recruited by HTV, where I did another year on their local news magazine programme. I left there to join the BBC in Southampton, as a regional staff reporter, and then, in 1972, I got a job as a national TV reporter and moved to London, where I covered Middle East stories and the invasion of Cyprus. Three years after that I became industrial correspondent, covering all the strikes there were in the mid-Seventies, and as I did that I became very interested in the oil business; this was the time when all the platforms were being built in the North Sea.

So I went on to become the BBC's energy correspondent, and for some of that time I was based up in Scotland. And, in 1979, a Scotland correspondent's job was created for me, as the BBC in London wanted its own correspondent to report on Scottish stories, rather than going through BBC Scotland.

Then, in 1981, I got a BBC special correspondent's job, and came back to London. But I was always on the move: I was sent to Northern Ireland for one day, and came back three months later having been sent from Northern Ireland to El Salvador. Then the Falklands Crisis broke, and I was sent from El Salvador to Chile. But I spent the war itself in Buenos Aires, for which I was lionised on my return but which wasn't the least bit dangerous, really. I was then appointed South Africa correspondent, but agreed to alternate with John Humphrys reading the Nine O'Clock News until I left London.

I was based in Africa for four years, and that was the most interesting time of my career. These were the dying days of apartheid, and it was the most amazing story to cover - at once so complicated and so simple. And, in 1984, the cameraman Mohamed Amin and I did the original films about the famine in Ethiopia that started off Band Aid. The emotional numbness that I felt at the time is difficult to recapture: we knew things were bad, but even then we weren't prepared for what we saw. And because most of the white people there were doctors, nurses and aid-workers, people were under the impression that I'd be able to help in some way, which underlined to me convincingly how useless a journalist is in these circumstances.

Then, in 1986, South Africa introduced its state of emergency, which made it very difficult to report on the unrest, but it was also quite a challenge to find alternative ways of getting across what was going on. The Supreme Court overturned this after about a year, but then, after another 30 hours, the regulations were reimposed and we were expelled from the country.

When I got back to London I read the One O'Clock News for a while, and then the Nine O'Clock News when it was relaunched in 1988. I've continued to do that ever since, alongside various other things: I do The Moral Maze on Radio 4, and 999, which I suppose is an upmarket tabloid TV programme, but it's very well made and I think its heart's in the right place. And that's where you find me now - a male, middle-aged authority figure

Interview by Scott Hughes

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Urgent Requirement - Central Manchester

£20000 - £23000 per annum + 20 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: Marketi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Guru Careers: Social Media Executive / SEO Executive

£20 - 25K + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Social Media...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions