John Craven: My Life In Media

'Jon Culshaw of Dead Ringers does a great impression of me. He's got some of the mannerisms down perfectly'
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The Independent Online

John Craven, 65, spent 17 years presenting BBC children's staple Newsround, racking up more than 3,000 editions - and who can forget those jumpers? He was also a weekend favourite as part of the presenting line-up for Multi-Coloured Swap Shop and Saturday Superstore. Since 1989 he has fronted Countryfile, travelling to all corners of the country. The two-time Bafta winner also presents the new BBC2 magazine show Castle in the Country alongside Nicki Chapman and hosted the recent My Favourite Garden on UKTV Style Gardens.

So what inspired you to embark on a career in media?

It started off when I took over running the church magazine. It was a bit of dowdy old thing and I turned it into the Sunday Express or something. We're talking the late 1950s now. There was a religious programme then called The Sunday Break - it was like an on-air youth club - and they invited me to come in as a guest to talk about the magazine and I ended up coming back to present it. I knew then that journalism was what I wanted to do. Well either that or acting; I quite fancied myself as the next Peter O'Toole, but journalism offered a guaranteed wage.

When you were 15 years old, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

We took the Yorkshire Evening Post. I remember that I asked for a microphone so that I could sit in the kitchen and read out the articles to my parents like a newscaster.

And what were your favourite radio and TV programmes?

We were the first teenagers. Television was still black and white then so there was nothing really around, but I do remember listening to Radio Luxembourg's Top 20 under my pillow. It was on Sundays at 11pm and oddly they used to reveal the No 1 first.

Describe your job.

I'm a journalist and a broadcaster. Countryfile is the only rural affairs show on in the UK. It is a nice thing to celebrate. I spend about two days a week at BBC Birmingham doing scripts and editing and the rest of the time on the road.

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

I listen to Today on Radio 4 and [watch] BBC Breakfast. I also get The Daily Telegraph - it has the best news coverage.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

BBC News 24. I used to be a news junkie when I was a newscaster, but now I tend to listen to discs instead. I do make sure I listen to the six o'clock evening bulletin on Radio 4; it is the best source of the latest news anywhere in the world, it's comprehensive and fits in with my lifestyle.

What is the best thing about your job?

Just going around seeing what a great place the British countryside is.

And the worst?

I have to travel an awful lot. I wish there was a way of getting to places without the travel.

How do you feel you influence the media?

I'm not sure I do. I like to think I bring more information about rural issues to people.

What's the proudest achievement of your working life?

Keeping in work on BBC1 for the past 35 years.

At home, what do you tune into?

I love Spooks. I'm addicted. I try not to miss it. I think it is just so amazingly well done, from the acting to the production and the scripts. The stories are implausible but it is wonderful escapism. I don't watch an awful lot of television - usually whatever is on at 9pm when we have a TV meal. I watch Andrew Marr on Sunday AM. I quite like Little Britain but I don't find much else funny, although Dead Ringers is good. Jon Culshaw does a great impression of me. He's got some of the mannerisms down perfectly. I like Radio 3 and Classic FM, although some of the presenters on that can be a bit cheesy.

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

I don't have a particular Sunday paper. I do get the BBC Country Magazine, and sometimes on a whim I'll by something at random - like Motorhomes Weekly. I like the nerdy details. I'm not sure about the celebrity magazines, though. I saw Heat once in a waiting room and was surprised at the level of detail people were happy to go in to about their private lives.

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

I don't think I've got any left.

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

I'd like to be a pilot. I love planes and flying.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

I admire David Attenborough. He puts so much enthusiasm as well as knowledge into his work. He compels you to watch him. He's just a great storyteller and an inspiration.