Peter Woods - People - News - The Independent

Peter Woods

Peter Woods was one of the first Fleet Street journalists to make a successful transition from the printed word to location reporting for television. A tall, heavy man with a forthright manner, he was immediately recognisable on the screen. He was a pioneer in using the new sound film camera not merely as an instrument for interviewing, but as a tool for compiling complete reports in the field.

Woods joined the BBC in 1960. He was said to be the first journalist recruited by BBC News from the tabloid press. He had been with the Daily Sketch following six years on the Daily Mirror, for which he had written a world exclusive after making a parachute landing in Suez during the 1956 attack. He had previously worked for the Daily Mail and the Yorkshire Post. His BBC reports were regularly recorded in toto on location rather than merely topped and tailed on the spot with the narration provided by the newsroom. They made a great impression on ITN, who engaged Woods in 1964 to set up their operation in the United States.

On his last day at the BBC Woods was sent to cover a medical story. The specialist he had been interviewing was worried by the look of his eyes and insisted that he come back to have them tested. He was found to have a condition requiring immediate treatment. A report that he was suffering from a brain tumour turned out to befalse, much to ITN's relief.

In New York, one of Woods's first successes was to secure an interview with the Duke of Windsor, the first he gave at any length to British television. Woods was also, notably, filmed walking in the front rank of the Freedom Marchers in Alabama and interviewing Martin Luther King as he led the column towards a cordon of State police.

Three years later Woods returned to the BBC to present, on BBC2, the first news programme in colour. This was Newsroom, broadcast at 7.30pm and the first news programme to have dual presenters. John Timpson, later of Today on Radio 4, was his partner. Woods later presented news on BBC1. In 1976 one of his programmes was faded out when viewers rang to complain that the newsreader was slurring his words. He denied that he had been drinking and the problem was blamed on sinus trouble.

Woods retired at the end of 1981 and worked as a freelance, regularly appearing in plays or documentaries in the role of a BBC newsreader.

Leonard Miall

Peter Holmes Woods, journalist and newsreader: born Romford 7 November 1930; married Kathleen Marian Smith (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved), secondly Emma Jean Steer; died Yeovil, Somerset 22 March 1995.

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