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.

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
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey
film
Sport
Bafetibis Gomis of Swansea City is stretchered off at White Hart Lane
football
News
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
health
News
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
Sport
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
News
The spider makes its break for freedom
VIDEO
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
people
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
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: Front-End Developer / Front-End Designer - City of London

£27000 - £33000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End Devel...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Junior PHP Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Guru Careers: Front End Web Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: Our client help leading creative agencies ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot