My Mentor: Sarah Smith On Jeremy Paxman

'He'll take the piss out of anybody and not spare the blushes of the researchers'
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By about 1992 I was working for the BBC on a documentary programme called Public Eye and we were putting together a big debate programme which he was going to be hosting. The editor was making a big fuss about the day Jeremy was coming in so I nervously slunk in at the back of the room, only to find him shouting out, "I remember you! You're the girl who couldn't stop asking me how to get into the BBC when I chaired that debate in Edinburgh. Well, I see it worked. It's hardly a surprise. Anybody as pushy as you was bound to get in here eventually."

Of course I was absolutely mortified, but I got through it all and he was charming and professional and easy to work with.

A few years after that I ended up as a producer on Newsnight and I worked with him every day. He's very amusing to work with. He'll take the piss out of anybody and not spare the blushes of the researchers or junior producers.

It was a prestigious place to be, not least because Jeremy is such a good presenter. Once I had to talk him through a complicated discussion I had organised, sitting in his office role-playing our way through what the guests were likely to say. I remember him saying at one point, "Goodness me, you're rather good at this. I'd better watch out!"

He used to make jokes saying, "You should try your hand at this one day." I wouldn't pay any serious attention to it. Why would I want to sit in a live television studio?

I left Newsnight in 1997 for Five News and he was incredibly supportive when I said I was leaving to be a reporter. People can be standoffish about backroom staff putting themselves on television. But he was very kind and said he'd always thought I should be on television.

Sarah Smith is the presenter of More4 News

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