My Life In Media: John Stapleton
'The best thing about my job is being able to say, "While you have been asleep... " – telling viewers something they didn't know when they went to bed'
Monday 21 April 2008
John Stapleton, 62, is the presenter of GMTV's The News Hour. He celebrates 10 years hosting the programme with co-presenter Penny Smith today. Over a 40-year career, Stapleton has interviewed every prime minister since James Callaghan, and reported from the Falklands, the Middle East, Northern Ireland and El Salvador for the BBC's Panorama and Newsnight. In the 1980s he co-presented Watchdog with his wife of 30 years, Lynn Faulds Wood. The couple live in Surrey and have one son, Nick.
What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?
Seeing Mike Parkinson present a local current affairs programme called Scene at 6.30 for Granada. I decided I wanted to be a TV journalist, and worked out that, like him, I needed to work in newspapers first.
When you were 15 which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?
The News Chronicle, which was then absorbed by the Daily Mail. We carried on taking the Mail despite my father being a member of the Labour party. I read them both every day.
And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?
Round the Horne on the radio and That Was the Week That Was on TV, both of which I found deliciously irreverent.
Describe your job.
Persuading people still rubbing the sand from their eyes that it is worth spending a few minutes finding out what is going on in the world. Better still, making it so interesting that they miss their bus.
What's the first media you turn to in the mornings?
Naturally GMTV. However, I obviously keep in touch with the opposition – especially Sky News, who remain brilliant news reactors.
Do you consult any media sources during the day?
As one of those hacks who spent their formative years knocking on doors and calling people on the telephone, I am overwhelmed by and a little suspicious of Google. It also makes me slightly angry. Why is information-gathering so damned easy for this generation?
What do you tune into when you get home?
I am a huge fan of Radio Five Live – Victoria Derbyshire and Peter Allen. I love the mixture of news and sport and its relaxed style, so refreshingly free of the pomposity that characterises some other BBC output.
What is the best thing about your job?
Being able to say, "While you have been asleep..." – telling the viewer something they didn't know when they went to bed. That, and being sent out to places such as Iraq. Mentally and physically taxing, but a great buzz – especially when it's all over.
And the worst?
Obviously, hearing the alarm go off at 3.30am. Worse still, waking at 3.30am at the weekend because my body clock thinks that is when I should be rising.
How do you feel you influence the media?
I think we have a slow burn effect. By continually chipping away at something, "they" – be it government or big business – eventually take notice.
What's the proudest achievement in your working life?
Being made the Royal Television Society's News Presenter of the Year in 2004. I had never won so much as a sausage, and it was great for GMTV and the populist journalism we present.
And what's your most embarrassing moment?
Saying live, on air, to a delightful woman who had lost her legs: "Can we trot through this from the top?" It doesn't get much worse than that.
What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?
We have The Sunday Times and the Mail on Sunday delivered, but I tend to pick up most of the rest as well. I don't read many mags.
Name the one career ambition you want to realise before you retire.
I'd like to convince more people in the media that age and experience are an invaluable asset, and that while "yoof" might keep the advertisers happy, lots of viewers value people who have been around the block a few times.
What would you do if you didn't work in the media?
Spend even more time travelling the country watching Manchester City.
Who in the media do you most admire and why?
I remain a great fan of Parky. I have a huge admiration for Jon Snow, Sky's Jeremy Thompson and ITV's Julie Etchingham.
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