“Life is so short is seems careless not to use it all.”
When asked to write about our “journalistic hero” I had absolutely no idea who I could choose. I think the word ‘hero’ is probably too strong a word as there are many journalists I admire but I would not elevate them to this position. However, my view on this may have changed having researched the iconic news presenter and broadcast journalist Sir Trevor Mcdonald.
Trevor Mcdonald was born in Trinidad in 1939. He came form a relatively poor background; his father worked in an oil refinery and raised pigs. I think it is important to emphasise here the role his father had on shaping his own values. He said, ” My father was a respecter of people as people. He never classified them because of the colour of their skin.”
Despite his lack of formal education he read widely and perfected his English by listening to the BBC World Service (it is interesting to note that he was once viewed as the best spoken person in the country). His extraordinarily long and succesful career began in 1962 in Trinidad when he started working in radio, television and on newspapers, joining the Caribbean section of BBC’s World Service. He moved to the London in 1969 to work for BBC Radio as a presenter. In 1973 he became the first black presenter to work for he ITN working is way steadily through the ranks.
He is probably most remembered for his role as presenter of ITN News at Ten from 1992-1999.From 1999 to December 2007, Sir Trevor presented ITV’s Tonight programme during which time he interviewed President Bush on two occasions and political figures including Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice and Hilary Clinton.
He has received more awards than any other newscaster in Britain and was named Newscaster of the Year in 1993, 1997 and 1999. He was awarded on OBE in 1992 and was knighted in 1999 for his outstanding services to broadcasting. He continues to work on in-depth documentaries such as Women Behind Bars, Inside Death Row and most recently Mafia Women.
The people he has interviewed is an exhaustive and impressive list. He was the first reporter to interview Nelson Mandela three days after his release from prison. He has interviewed Jessie Jackson, Saddam Hussein, Colonel Gaddafi, Yasser Arafat, Presidents Bush and Clinton and many more. However, I think the main thing that distinguishes Sir Trevor is that he gets people to talk to him. Mainly because he listens, giving his undivided attention, he never interrupts and treats everyone with equal respect; be it a world leader or a convicted murderer. It does not surprise me that he has been described as the most reassuring, reliable and trustworthy of the faces on television.
He has said that he always had “a genuine interest for this business of dissemination of information” and that “the fun of journalism is to drill down to find the truth of what ‘s really going on”. He emphasizes the importance of the freedom of the press but more importantly the responsibility that comes with that freedom.
For me Trevor Mcdonald epitomizes the five core values of ethical journalism; accuracy; independence; impartiality; humanity; and accountability. I would add to this his coutersy, believability and gravitas. As to his secret for success, Trevor McDonald says, “there is no substitute for hard work, all comes through graft.”