My Life In Media: Dermot Murnaghan
'Wearing see-through clothing in front of an audience of several million, with Terry Wogan in the background, is pretty embarrassing'
Monday 15 September 2008
Sky News presenter Dermot Murnaghan, 50, presents Sky News Today every weekday morning. A decade ago his interview with Peter Mandelson on the ITN Lunchtime News prompted the minister's resignation. Murnaghan joined Sky last year after five years on the BBC Breakfast sofa and is enjoying the opportunity to spend more time with his four children. He is a cycling addict and often bikes the 32-mile round trip between north London and the office. He is married to Maria Keegan, also a journalist.
What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?
Watching a lot of television news when I was a kid. I remember being transfixed by the first moon shots and Alastair Burnett and his team analysing Apollo 13 falling apart. In a way they were the prototype for today's rolling news.
When you were 15, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?
I lived in Northern Ireland so we got the Belfast Telegraph and I used to read that.
And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?
I remember watching Civilisation, the huge BBC series. It was one of those grand things they used to do, a 13-part documentary by Lord Clark. Apart from that, I enjoyed things like Alias Smith and Jones.
Describe your job.
As the presenter of Sky News Today I try to prepare as much as I can for four hours of non-stop rolling news. By and large anything can happen in news in the course of a morning.
What's the first media you turn to in the mornings?
Radio 4. It's always been my radio station choice and it's useful to listen to in the car.
Do you consult any media sources during the day?
I look through as many of the papers as I can bear to read and then check the wires and various websites when I arrive at work. At the moment I'm particularly focused on the American elections and look at a lot of politics websites. I cram as much as I can into my little head as any bit of knowledge is useful when you're involved in rolling news. It might buy you another 30 seconds until you get more information on something that has just come up.
What do you tune into when you get home?
Quite a lot of news, sadly. I watch a bit of Sky News at home, the BBC News at Six and I'm keen on Channel 4 News. I watch Summer Heights High on BBC3 with my eldest daughter. It's a very bizarre but very funny Australian programme and an acquired taste. Professional cycling on ITV4 is my kind of relaxation TV.
What is the best thing about your job?
Just being involved in current affairs is a rare privilege. Politics and economics rock my boat. I have access to Cabinet ministers, and the great thing about Sky News Today is that there's nobody in your ear saying "You can't ask that".
And the worst?
I suspect if I won the lottery I would give up work, but in the absence of that it's a great job.
How do you feel you influence the media?
That's for other people to judge but there is a symbiotic relationship between different forms of media. If I get something out of somebody, I know somebody else will report it. Equally, I listen to the radio in the morning and read the papers, and then do things on Sky News which I know will be on in other newsrooms. I think I have a pretty unusual position having worked for three major broadcasters in the course of my career.
What's the proudest achievement in your working life?
I hope that anyone I've come into contact with over the course of my career I've treated fairly and that their views were represented fairly. I've seen people in the media being rude to members of the public. You've asked for their time which they've given willingly, and therefore you should pay them back accordingly. Without people watching and listening we don't exist.
And what's your most embarrassing moment?
There have been far, far too many. The one that is still on YouTube these days is one of my sequinned dancing moments for BBC Children in Need. Wearing see-through clothing in front of an audience of several million, with Terry Wogan in the background, is pretty embarrassing.
What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?
An impossible question because I get such a great pile. In terms of must-gets, it's The Sunday Times, The Observer and probably the Mail on Sunday. I read The Week and Private Eye.
Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire?
I'm in the really fortunate position of having started early and I'm pretty satisfied right now. One of my first memories of watching television news is of the News at Ten. To be presenting it 30 years later was my "look at me" moment.
Who in the media do you most admire and why?
Walter Cronkite is the all time great. Our own much under-appreciated character is Alastair Burnett. It was one of the greatest privileges of my career to overlap with him by about six months when I first joined ITN.
Dermot is taking take part in Sky Sports London Freewheel, traffic-free cycling www.london.gov.uk/freewheel, this Sunday
1984: Starts as a reporter on the Coventry Evening Telegraph, leaving for Channel 4's The Business Programme
1988: Joins the European Broadcasting Company
1989: Back to Channel 4 as presenter of the Channel 4 Daily
1992: Moves to ITN as a presenter
1998: Scoops the Royal Television Society 'Interview of the Year' award for the Mandelson interview
2002: Becomes the face of BBC Breakfast
2003: Begins presenting Treasure Hunt
2007: Poached by Sky to present Sky News Today
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