My Life In Media: John Humphrys


John Humphrys, 61, is best known as the voice that wakes the nation as presenter of BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme. He left school at 15 to work on local papers in South Wales before joining the BBC. He has two grown-up children, and a four-year-old son with his current partner, Valerie Sanderson.

John Humphrys, 61, is best known as the voice that wakes the nation as presenter of BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme. He left school at 15 to work on local papers in South Wales before joining the BBC. He has two grown-up children, and a four-year-old son with his current partner, Valerie Sanderson.

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

I'm not proud of this, but it really was Superman. It was the comic of choice when I was in infants' school and my critical faculties were not exactly honed to a fine edge. I made a simple calculation: Superman was really Clark Kent; Clark Kent was a journalist; ergo if I became a journalist I would become Superman. Not too shaming for a five-year-old, but I never really grew out of the notion.

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

My father was a working-class Tory so we got the Express and, yes, I did read it ... which probably explains a lot.

And what were you favourite TV and radio programmes?

No TV (that came much later) but lots of the Home Service on the wireless. I was deeply impressed by the glamorous figures who contributed to From Our Own Correspondent. That gave me another push in the direction of journalism. Charles Wheeler was a regular even then. Extraordinary that he's still broadcasting 50 years later.

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

You mean there's an alternative to Radio 4?

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

I use Google a lot... hard to imagine life without it.

What is the best thing about your job?

I'm not sure that spending one's time talking to interesting people is a "job" in a sense. It's a bit like getting paid to do something you'd do from choice.

And the worst?

Having to get up in the middle of the bloody night.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

Surviving this far.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

Doing the programme with a terrible hangover one morning and realising, half way through an interview with a leading politician, that I'd forgotten who he was. And no, I'm not going to give you his name. I think he knows, but I'm not sure and I've enough enemies in Westminster as it is.

At home, what do you tune in to?

Radio 4 and sometimes Radio 3. I'm a sucker for radio drama. The old cliché is true: the pictures are better on the wireless. I'm already bending the ear of Mark Damazer, the new controller of Radio 4, to bring back 90-minute plays. They were dropped years ago and I miss them. But what really makes Radio 4 unique is that it refuses to chant the mantra of "accessibility". Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time is a perfect example of what the network is for - intelligent conversation that makes demands of the listener. I could do with a bit less talk on Radio 3, but Private Passions is almost always a joy.

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

All of them except the red-top tabloids. I can't imagine not reading The Spectator and New Statesman.

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

The Queen hasn't agreed to an interview... and that's not for want of asking.

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

Provide nutrition for the worms. A few years ago I'd have said farming, but I'm lousy at it. Plus, that's real work.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

John Simpson because he is genuinely brave. Columnists such as Libby Purves who write from real conviction. And, naturally, whichever editor I happen to be working for at the time.

CV: THE QUESTIONER

1966: Joins the BBC as a reporter based in Liverpool.

1970: Moves to London, but spends long periods covering Northern Ireland.

1971: Moves to the US as the youngest journalist ever to be appointed a BBC foreign correspondent, spending one year in New York and five in Washington, DC.

1977: As Southern Africa correspondent he covers the transformation of Southern Rhodesia into Zimbabwe.

1980: Back in London as diplomatic correspondent.

1981: Begins a five-year stint presenting the Nine 0'Clock News.

1987: Becomes presenter of Radio 4's Today programme.

1993-2002: Presents BBC1's weekly political programme, On The Record.

1994: Begins presenting Radio 4's On the Ropes.

1995: His current reputation as a formidable interviewer takes off when his aggressive style is attacked by some Conservative MPs, notably Jonathan Aitken.

2003: Host of BBC2's Mastermind.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
University Edible Garden, Leeds – a sustainable garden in the centre of the university, passers-by can help themselves to the home-grown produce
news
Arts and Entertainment
There are no plans to replace R Kelly at the event
music
News
newsThis 8-year-old boy carried his disabled brother through a triathlon
Sport
The Manchester United team walk out ahead of the pre-season friendly between Manchester United and Inter Milan at FedExField
transfers
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Account Manager, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent Uncapped Commission Structure: ...

Sales Executive, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Charter Selection: This exciting entertainment comp...

Digital Producer / Digital Project Manager

£28 - 45k: Guru Careers: A Digital Producer / Digital Project Manager is neede...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz