My Mentor: Sarah Mukherjee on Stephen Mitchell

'If he can't help, he won't say he will and then spend six months trying to avoid you'
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The Independent Online

I first met Steve Mitchell when I left local radio and started working for a little- known but vital part of the BBC called GNS, the General News Service, and he was my boss's boss. It supplies all the national and international news to the BBC's network of local radio stations. The combined audience is huge and tends to be the people the BBC is often accused of ignoring – those on lower incomes, the elderly, people living in rural areas. GNS reporters break national and international stories, produce great original journalism and are well-known names outside the M25. However, they're unknown within TV Centre. And if people don't know your work, they don't trust your editorial judgement. And, more importantly, don't give you a job. We used to call it the "Hotel California".

During the BSE Inquiry in 1998, it struck me that every local radio station either had a victim of vCJD on their patch, or a farmer who'd been affected by the agricultural melt-down surrounding the disease. The demand for material from local radio stations was massive, and with the contacts and experience I gained in providing it, I ended up developing a rural affairs and environment specialism within the department in the years that followed. Armed with specialist knowledge, I started applying again for national news jobs. Problem was, still, no one knew who the hell I was. However, Steve did, and I have him to thank for his advice and support in making the jump to network correspondent. He has always been honest and frank; if he can't help, he won't say he will and then spend the next six months trying to avoid you. At the same time, he will always give constructive advice. He's the one I ask for advice when I have really big stories, as I know he will cast his experienced eye over it, and treat it on its merits. He's always courteous and considerate, and I wouldn't be doing this job if it wasn't for him.

Sarah Mukherjee is the BBC Environment Correspondent. Stephen Mitchell is the head of BBC Radio News