My Mentor: Matt Barbet on Sara Cox

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The Independent Online

Rod McKenzie, the editor of Radio 1's Newsbeat, gave me my first job at Radio 1 as a reporter. He had done every job in the newsroom, which you can't say about many editors. I worked with "Dangerous" Dave Pearce, and then moved to Sara Cox's breakfast show in 2002.

Sara had a reasonably big profile, so of course I was aware of her when I went to work on her show. I wasn't desperately keen to get up at 5am every morning but, like any journalist, I wanted to do the best job in the newsroom, and getting to work with Sara was a bonus.

She was great from the outset, but the thing that really hit me about her is that she is the same off air as on air. I really liked that because you come across lots of people who change when they go on air. That's their prerogative, but she was the same – love her or hate her.

I was able to learn a lot just by watching her at work. She had a total lack of fear of just being herself, and was also able to rely on her wits, which, in terms of live breakfast radio with millions of listeners, was certainly an inspiration.

A lot of people can be very guarded about their private lives, but Sara was down to earth and not afraid to talk about herself. We would chat in the studio and, when a record stopped, she would carry on for the benefit of her listener. We didn't socialise too much, but she invited me and my wife to her 30th birthday. I knew that she had loads of famous mates, so we rocked up thinking we were fashionably late, but we were the first to arrive!

I was back at Radio 1 last week for the first time in a few years for its 40th anniversary. They got me to come back and read a news bulletin as part of a show Sara was doing. It was really good to see her – I don't talk about her in glowing terms just because she's one of the best-known people I've worked with, but because I've got a genuine affection for her.

Matt Barbet is a Five News presenter, and Sara Cox is a Radio 1 DJ