My Mentor: Alastair Stewart on Sir Alastair Burnett

'His driving force was what ordinary men and women were interested in'
Click to follow
The Independent Online

As an undergraduate I'd been an avid viewer of News at Ten, which he presented. Then I joined ITN in 1980 as an industrial correspondent and was dealing with stuff that he was very interested in, because his first great loves were always politics and economics and industrial stuff.

By the mid-Eighties I had begun to do some news presenting and found myself sitting next to this person whom I had hero-worshipped. He was remarkably generous despite his enormous stature, and warm and supportive. I did a couple of general elections with him, and we used to do the Budget because it was a passion we both had.

I did huge amounts of research and still do, and I used to stagger into the studio with armfuls of folders. I remember him saying: "One day, you will come in with just a slip of paper and there will be one thing on it, and then you'll know you've really mastered it."

One thing I remember, which is still incredibly useful, is that he wanted to cover stuff that people would be chatting about the following morning in works canteens and bus queues. Here's a guy who was the editor of The Economist and a national newspaper editor. He was immersed in the political history of the country to such a degree that I can't think of anyone else, apart from David Dimbleby, who could have matched it. But his driving force was what ordinary men and women were interested in.

It would have been the late-Eighties when he called it a day and I presented his final News at Ten with him, which was a terrific honour. He now does his own thing quietly but his influence endures.

Alastair Stewart presents 'London Tonight' and the ITV1 national news