My Life In Media: Jon Snow

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The Independent Online

Jon Snow, 57, has presented Channel 4 News since 1989. The son of the (later) Bishop of Whitby, he was sent down from Liverpool University in 1970 for skirmishing with a policeman at a demonstration, taught in Uganda and then ran a day centre for young drug addicts before entering journalism.

Jon Snow, 57, has presented Channel 4 News since 1989. The son of the (later) Bishop of Whitby, he was sent down from Liverpool University in 1970 for skirmishing with a policeman at a demonstration, taught in Uganda and then ran a day centre for young drug addicts before entering journalism.

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

I did voluntary service overseas, which made me want to be a journalist. Once you see the world, you want to understand it.

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

The Daily Mail - I was 15 during the Profumo affair and the Daily Mail was pretty juicy, a 15-year-old's dream - and The Sunday Times.

And what were you favourite TV and radio programmes?

Fawlty Towers is the funniest and most revealing one. The programme that had the greatest impact was Cathy Come Home - it gave rise to the Shelter charity. And any general election, because they are such a wonderful televisual process. I went to a boarding school and we were only allowed radio on a Sunday, so that was The Archers omnibus. Forces' Favourite was good.

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

Radio 4, 6am, Today. I stay with it until 9am. I read the Financial Times and The Guardian, then The Independent and The Telegraph. I never watch TV in the morning.

Do you consult any media sources during the working day?

Sky News and BBC News 24. I read The New York Times online and have various bookmarks - to the Brookings Institution in Washington, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the Iraq Body Count website. And I like Richard and Judy, and Matthew Wright. Richard and Judy have made an amazing transition from ITV to become a cult on Channel 4.

What is the best thing about your job?

Having an hour of Channel 4 News, when most other programmes have half that time. We also have a budget and the commitment not only to report the news, but to add some insight.

And the worst?

The hours. To make sense of it all you have to be there 9.30am, otherwise you never know how the day evolved.

What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

Being [a member of] the first team to go into El Salvador in 1982 when no one was interested in the killing and human rights. We forced the issue into the mainstream, which is every journalist's ambition. I'm very proud to be the main anchor of Channel 4 News, and of the fact that I have never dreaded any day I've had to go to work.

And what's your most embarrassing moment?

My interview with Ronald Reagan in 1985 was a complete failure. I was steamed up to do a thrusting interview, but he came in and tripped over the carpet and I felt very sorry for him. I started trying to be charming and gushing - it was horrible. Other bad moments are when you turn to someone on air and don't know their name.

At home, what do you tune in to?

I do absolutely nothing at all until The World Tonight on Radio 4 and then Newsnight, which I fall asleep to.

What is your Sunday paper? Do you have a favourite magazine?

I read The Observer, The Independent on Sunday and The Sunday Telegraph. My staple magazines are The New Yorker, the London Review of Books and Time.

Name one career ambition you want to realise before you retire

To be a more effective interviewer.

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

I'd like to go into overseas development. I'm interested in conflict resolution and administration of funding for overseas development.

Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Gavyn Davies: he was a good chairman of the BBC and very dignified in his handling of the corporation over Hutton. I admire David Lloyd and Jim Gray, who take the greatest credit for what Channel 4 News has become.

CV: THE NEWSMAN

1967: Travels to Uganda with the VSO to teach in the middle of the rainforest for a year.

1970: Works as a youth leader at the New Horizon Youth Centre for drug addicts and the homeless in Covent Garden. He has chaired the centre since 1986.

1973: Joins LBC as a journalist for Independent Radio News.

1976: Joins Independent Television News as a reporter. Wins the Monte Carlo Golden Nymph Award in 1979 for his reporting on the Eritrea air attack. In 1980, he is named TV reporter of the year for his reporting on Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. In 1982, he receives the Valiant for Truth Award and RTS International Award for his El Salvador reporting. Becomes ITN's Washington correspondent in 1983 and diplomatic editor in 1986.

1989: Wins the RTS Home News Award for his Kegworth air crash reporting, and becomes presenter of the Channel 4 News. He presents Election '92 for ITV 1992-7 He chairs the Prison Reform Trust.

1994: Wins RTS Presenter of the Year.

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