John Humphrys reveals ‘terrible thing’ he did as young reporter
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The veteran broadcaster appeared on Alan Titchmarsh’s ‘Love Your Weekend’ today, alongside actress Sarah Parish. Over the course of the programme, viewers will see Manor Farm’s first-ever Mounted Games with young riders from the Royal Windsor show. Horticulturalist David Domoney showcases the very best in garden pollinators, and the team looks at why British rose wine has never been more popular.
Humphrys will likely be full of stories given his lengthy career with the BBC as a reporter and presenter.
He joined the BBC in 1966 as a reporter based in Liverpool, a year later becoming the Northern Industrial Correspondent.
The Welshman later covered the troubles in Northern Ireland before becoming a foreign correspondent with the India-Pakistan war among his first assignments abroad.
Later, he moved to the US to open the BBC’s news bureau in Washington, becoming the broadcaster’s first television correspondent in the US ahed 28.
In 1981 he became the main presenter of the BBC’s Nine O’Clock, and along with John Simpson, changed the way the corporation reported its news, as the presenters also became involved in the process of preparing the broadcast.
In 2008, well into his most famous stint at the broadcaster as a Today programme presenter, Humphrys appeared on an episode of Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs.
There, he told then-presenter Kirsty Young about how his behaviour during his Nine O’Clock News role made him feel “slightly ashamed”.
Young asked him whether it was a “desire to keep your job or a desire to give the other man a bloody nose” which had made him so ambitious and competitive throughout his career — he was once described as a “rottweiler”.
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Laughing, he said: “It’s very difficult to separate those two, but there’s certainly a bit of that in me.
“I do remember once being based in Salisbury, Rhodesia as it was [now Harare, Zimbabwe] and as I was going on holiday, they sent out another reporter to take over from me.
“I can remember rushing around, for weeks, hoovering up every story I could find so that when this poor chap arrived there were already seven Humphrys films waiting to be transmitted on the Nine O’Clock news.
“It was a wicked, terrible thing to do and I feel only slightly ashamed.”
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Young replied by saying it was tenacity that makes a good journalist, especially when reporting on foreign affairs.
He said: “It is highly competitive and you can’t come second, that’s absolutely right. But if you are not in the right place at the right time then that’s it – it’s luck, mostly luck!”
Humphrys said he had often been called away from a family holiday after just one and a half days off work.
Later, he hinted that he was still affected by his childhood days growing up in Wales, after saying that no one gets over the things that happened in their younger years.
Growing up in a large family of seven in a working class area of Cardiff, he said “we just didn’t have much money”.
He added: “The height of wealth was a bowl of fruit on somebody’s table when there was nobody ill in the house. That was the mark of inordinate riches.”
His father was self-employed, which meant the family would often run out of money if there was no work.
Humphrys said: “My father didn’t like authority of any sort. That’s what I got from him, I suppose.”
His parents helped him in his studies so he was able to become a pupil at Cardiff High School, which was then a grammar school.
He complained about all the children being too middle class, telling Young: “I hated it, absolutely hated it. Partly the chip on the shoulder bit but also because I was average, and I didn’t have any real social network there. I always felt that I didn’t quite fit in.”
He later agreed with Young that the “relative poverty” he faced in his youth left him with a determination that it “wasn’t ever going to be like that for me”.
This had stuck with him for his entire life, adding that he was still conscious of money because waste is a matter of “morality” not practically.
Love Your Weekend with Alan Titchmarsh airs at 10am on ITV One.
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