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John Timpson (Read 11976 times)
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John Timpson
Nov 19th, 2005, 2:07pm
 
One of the big names in the history of radio, John Timpson, has died.  He was a distinguished reporter in newspapers and television, but is best remembered for his 16 years on the Today programme.

He shared the main presenting duties first with Jack de Manio, then Robert Robinson and finally with Brian Redhead.

This is the  BBC News Online report of John Timpson's death.
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Re: John Timpson
Reply #1 - Nov 20th, 2005, 8:44am
 
I had the privilege of working closely with John Timpson when, after a brief spell in television, he returned to Today in 1978 and began his successful partnership with Brian Redhead.
he was always the lighter of the two - the man with the velvet voice one producer called him - but woe betide any duty editor or producer who tried to give Brian all the serious interviews.
He never, like Brian, enjoyed the world of politicians, trade union leaders etc., but that didn't mean he couldn't handle them. After the celebrated run in with Norman Tebbitt, he nursed his post programme whisky (in a paper cup) and expressed his satisfaction that Tebbitt had referred to him as "Mr. Timpson". "None of this first name familiarity with me Badger "(my nickname).
He could be a pain at party conferences and trips abroad as he couldn't wait to get back to his wife Pat, his family and his home in Chorleywood.
He chided me for saving money on air fares to a summit in Ottawa as it gave us two extra "free" days in that lovely city!
On his retirement from the BBC, he kept up his talks to WIs and Townswomen's Guilds (ladies of a certain age adored him) and his book writing, mainly about English heritage.
He promptly moved to his holiday home at Wellingham in Norfolk where he had cut his journalistic teeth as a cub reporter. He loved the area and after a few years moved to a larger house in another village - Weasenham, half way between Swaffham and Fakenham.
It was there that I last saw him and Pat about 18 months ago.
He never seemed to hanker after the bright lights or the celebrity life style. As we nursed a post lunch drink, looking over a village green with a duck pond and a pub within walking distance, I suggested it was idyllic.
"Blessed ducks - muck up the garden", he replied.
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Re: John Timpson
Reply #2 - Nov 21st, 2005, 6:13am
 
This is taken from The Guardian:

John Timpson

Broadcaster whose unflappable style brought a reliable calm to the Today programme
by Dennis Barker
Monday November 21, 2005


John Timpson, who has died aged 77, was a radio and television interviewer and presenter of the old school. Precise but good-natured, he was not in thrall to metropolitan culture, preferring to live on the refreshing plains of Norfolk. He always treated those he questioned on the Radio 4 Today programme - where he was co-presenter from 1970 to 1976, and from 1978 to 1986 - with firmness, but also with respect. He had a liking for the humorous aside.

Whether his agreeable style, or the more aggressive approach of John Humphrys and James Naughtie, was best calculated to reveal truths is debateable. What is incontestable is that Timpson was a thoroughly unflappable professional, who was not afraid of getting up at 3am to face any challenge. Though he was the emollient partner of several more angular personalities on Today, including Robert Robinson and Brian Redhead, he was originally brought on board to give the programme a harder, more newsy flavour than Jack de Manio, who had been doing the job for 11 years. (Timpson found de Manio "unpredictable" - as when he gave great offence by pronouncing the word for the river Niger as if it were the river black person.)

Timpson became an expert at providing early-morning stability to Today, which then had 4 million listeners, mostly bathing, showering, shaving or trying to get their breakfasts. He always joked that he had got softer as the years went by - he secretly preferred the lighter stories - and that Robinson had got harder in his news sense. He claimed sardonically that he regarded curtailing some of Redhead's willingness to "talk all day" as his duty to the British nation.

One of his great knacks was to introduce even quite serious items in a way likely to keep people cheerful over their breakfasts. When introducing a story about a report by David Widdicombe, QC, on local government, he explained the story and then asked a potential critic of the report: "Is Widdicombe fair?" He could be jokey in a way that only the pompous could take amiss.

Timpson's 18-month break from Today in 1976 was the result of his flirtation with television, when he presented Tonight on BBC1. Christopher Capron, its director, had worked with Timpson on Today in the early 1970s and had been impressed by the quickness of mind behind the plain-and-simple-man image. His impressive calm was another television asset; it had been noticed on Today that while others in the studio lost their tempers, or at least their cool, the tall and beetle-browed Timpson always carried on as if nothing was happening. A certain caution underpinned his calm; he had, after all, chosen to pass up the opportunity of high freelance fees in favour of the security of remaining a BBC staff member.

For a time Timpson even did Today and Tonight together, arriving at the BBC at 5.15am and working until after midnight. But when he had to decide between the two, it was the television job that he left, protesting that it had never been his medium. Self-flaunting display was not his forte. "I suppose I shall have to have my hair cut and buy a jacket that matches my trousers," he had said as he took the television job; by the end, he was relieved at not having to bother with such considerations.

Timpson's beginnings were mostly in the provinces, though he was born in Kenton, north London, the son of a bank manager. He went to Merchant Taylors' school but left in 1945, aged 16, to become a reporter on the Wembley News, interrupting this to do his national service in the Royal Army Service Corps. He returned to Wembley from 1949 to 1951 before joining the Eastern Daily Press in Norwich.

In 1959, he joined the BBC news staff as court correspondent, and covered royal events in Ethiopia and Australia, as well as at home. Five years later, he became a television presenter on BBC2 and was then recruited to Today.

Chairing the Radio 4 Any Questions programme from 1984 to 1987, Timpson handled even heavyweight political personalities with panache. Later, he switched allegiances and presented Timpson's Country Churches for ITV, from 1995 to 1998. He won the Sony Golden Award for outstanding services to radio in 1986, and was awarded the OBE the following year.

In retirement, he was the exact opposite of the archetypal media figure who cannot rest unless he is appearing personally before a public. He and his wife, Muriel, moved permanently into the cottage that had been their weekend home for years, the Ark, near King's Lynn, on the north Norfolk coast.

For long the secretary of the local parochial church council, Timpson had already published his autobiography, Today and Yesterday (1976), The Lighter Side of Today (1983), The Early Morning Book (1986) and Timpson's England - A Look Beyond the Obvious (1987). He now launched into publishing a series of books with more ease and success than many former broadcasters.

His work reflected his interest in the countryside and non-metropolitan life generally: Paper Trail, a novel about the mishaps of a young provincial reporter (1989), Timpson's Towns (1989), Timpson's Travels in East Anglia (1990), Sound Track, a novel, and Timpson's English Eccentrics (both 1991), Little Trains of Britain and Timpson's English Villages (both 1992), Timpson's Other England (1993), Timpson's Timepaths (1994), Timpson's English Country Inns (1995), Timpson's Book of Days (1996), Timpson's Adaptables (1997), Timpson's Country Churches (1998), Timpson's Leylines (2000), Timpson's Norfolk Notebook (2001) and Timpson on the Verge (2002).

He is survived by Muriel, whom he married in 1951, and one son. Another son, Nick, died five weeks ago.

Sue MacGregor writes: My very first morning presenting the Today programme, in the autumn of 1984, was made a good deal less frightening for me because my on-air partner was John Timpson. I'm not sure what he really thought of this female cuckoo in the then very masculine nest of Today, but he steered me through the complications of the running order with great kindness: at first, even getting the time checks right is much more difficult than you might suppose.

John was a meticulous broadcaster, who never forgot that listening to live current affairs broadcasts is not at all the same as reading a morning newspaper, so you'd better make everything as clear as you can. Like his famous on-air partner Brian Redhead, he had no time for mumblers. Like Brian, he came into broadcasting from print journalism, but in other respects they were very different people. John was pretty bored by serious politics, though he could do a tough political interview, and thought Today should have sufficient room for humour. His "ho ho" quips, invented to fill the little gaps before the time-checks in the days of the so-called regional opt-outs, quickly became a favourite part of the programme.

I still remember John's deadpan comment after a feature on the run-up to one of the latest Eurovision Song Contests of the early 1980s. "The first time I watched it, the lyrics of our entry went along the lines of 'Singing high, high, high; singing low, low, low', and as far as I can tell the standard of lyrics has declined every since." Slight pause - on to next item. He could judge that sort of thing perfectly, making the listeners feel he was on their side, and that being a fan of Today was like belonging to a rather good club.

∑ John Harry Robert Timpson, broadcaster and writer, born July 2 1928; died November 19 2005
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Re: John Timpson
Reply #3 - Nov 21st, 2005, 6:16am
 
This is taken from The Times:

John Timpson
July 2, 1928 - November 19, 2005

Former presenter of the Today programme and Any Questions who was renowned for his professionalism and cheery humour


AS A broadcaster, John Timpson was a true professional, and for the aficionados of Radio 4, one of the first voices they would hear upon waking up each morning. He was one of a generation of radio journalists who rose through the ranks in a career that spanned three decades. It varied from news reporting, through programme presentation ó mainly a memorable era as co-presenter of the popular early-morning news magazine Today on Radio 4, to chairmanship of the long-running Any Questions programme.

His period as co-presenter of the Today programme, from 1970 to 1986, was perhaps his apogee. It was certainly the role that made his voice a household one. He had a style that was relaxed and exhibited a droll and wry sense of wit. As an interviewer he was always polite and, demonstrating the mark of the professional that he was, never allowed his own politics or views to intrude.

He was awarded a Sony Gold Award for outstanding services to radio in 1986. Thereafter he largely devoted himself to the medium of print, in which he charted in various volumes the history and nuances of English rural life. But whether it be radio or the written word, Timpson was always renowned for his one-liner quips, avuncular disposition, humanity and ó most of all ó his bright sense of humour.

John Harry Robert Timpson was born at Harrow, Middlesex, and educated at Merchant Taylorsí School. His career in journalism began on the Wembley News in 1945, but was interrupted by National Service in the Army. In 1951 he left suburban London to enjoy the open spaces and eccentricities of East Anglia as a district reporter on the Eastern Daily Press and one of its weekly associates, where he remained for the next eight years.

In 1959 Timpson returned to London and joined the BBC news staff, working firstly as a radio reporter. As deputy to the legendary BBC Court Correspondent Godfrey Talbot from 1962 to 1967, he covered many royal engagements, including tours of Australia and Ethiopia.

For a couple of years in the 1960s, in the wake of the introduction of a new breed of studio anchormen, he moved to television as presenter of the Newsroom programme on BBC Two. Timpsonís best achievements, however, were on radio. In 1970 he became the first co-presenter of the Today programme with Jack de Manio, for whom he had occasionally deputised.

The eccentric and rather irascible de Manio felt that the character of the programme changed with the introduction of two presenters who, he believed, were in danger of talking to each other rather than the listener. He left and Timpson, who did not hold the same view, was joined for a time by another highly professional performer, the voluble Robert Robinson.

To some extent de Manioís fears were proved right. ďWe threw in jokes to fill in the gaps.Ē Timpson once remarked, but the badinage did not adversely affect the programmeís popularity and there was more of it ó quips about all manner of things from roadworks on the M6 to cricket, and nostalgia about things such as seaside piers.

Timpson was later joined by Brian Redhead for what became a popular and longstanding partnership, interrupted only by Timpsonís departure. He had returned to television in the 1970s as presenter of the BBC One Tonight programme, but after two years was back in his familiar seat on Today.

In 1984 he had also taken on the chairmanship of the long-running radio programme Any Questions. By 1986, however, Timpson had become tired of the necessary early rising for the Today programme and, to the envy of many colleagues, he retired early to a 17th-century cottage in north Norfolk, an area of England for which he had always retained a deep affection. He continued to travel the country with the Any Questions team, but eventually he gave this up too.

He was appointed OBE in 1987, the year after he received a gold award for outstanding services to radio. Timpsonís radio experiences had provided material for several books: Today and Yesterday (1976), The Lighter Side of Today (1983) and The Early Morning Book (1986).

Now freed of the inhibitions of regular broadcasting he wrote a series of travel books ó Timpsonís England (1987), Timpsonís Towns (1989), in which he looked at the oddities and peculiarities of the English scene, and, appropriately, Timpsonís Travels in East Anglia (1990). He also wrote a requiem for the red telephone kiosk, and his first novel, Paper Trail, an amusing distillation of his youthful experiences as a reporter in rural Norfolk, was published in 1989. Subsequent books included Timpsonís English Villages (1992), Timpsonís Other England (1993), Timpsonís English Country Inns (1995) and Timpson on the Verge (2002).

John Timpson can truly be said to have travelled full circle: in his semi-retirement he wrote a regular column for his old paper and was church warden of his village church.

He had been married since 1951 to Patricia, who survives him, as does their son. A second son, Nick, died suddenly at 42, five weeks ago.

John Timpson, OBE, broadcaster, was born on July 2, 1928. He died on November 19, 2005, aged 77.
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Re: John Timpson
Reply #4 - Nov 21st, 2005, 6:20am
 
This is taken from The Independent:

John Timpson

'Today' programme presenter who established a formidable partnership with Brian Redhead
Published: 21 November 2005


John Harry Robert Timpson, writer and broadcaster: born 2 July 1928; reporter, Wembley News 1945-46, 1949-51; reporter, Eastern Daily Press 1951-59; member, BBC News Staff 1959-87, deputy court correspondent 1962-67, presenter, Newsroom 1968-70, Today 1970-76, 1978-86, Tonight 1976-78, Any Questions 1984-87; OBE 1987; presenter, Timpson's Country Churches, ITV 1995-98; married 1951 Patricia Whale (one son, and one son deceased); died King's Lynn, Norfolk 19 November 2005.

The Today programme on BBC Radio 4 has been a broadcasting institution almost from the time it was launched in the 1950s on the old Home Service; but since then it has gone through several changes of personality. In the early days, with the ebulliently endearing Jack de Manio as ringmaster, its tone was gentle and quixotic as it tried to ease listeners tenderly into the day ahead, with little to raise the blood pressure as they dipped their soldiers into a boiled egg.

Nowadays it is the very opposite, as the irascible John Humphrys and Jim Naughtie pick fights with anyone who dares sit across the studio table from them, hoping to make us choke on our porridge. John Timpson's tenure, from 1970 to 1986 with a short gap in the middle, marked the transitional period between those two contrasting styles of current affairs radio.

During much of that time he shared presentation duties with Brian Redhead, and they made a splendid combination. Timpson, with a deep, rich voice, perfect for radio, was the natural heir to de Manio, though slightly less eccentric and better at telling the time. He shared his predecessor's gentle manner and his partiality for the quirky and the ridiculous; but as a former reporter he took a rather more rigorous approach to the news.

Redhead, the former editor of the Manchester Evening News, was equally loved by listeners but was capable of introducing a sharp tone into political interviews, laying the groundwork for his terrier-like successors. As a pair, he and Timpson were the classic hard cop, soft cop combination, as compared to the hard cop, hard cop regime that rules in these more combative times.

Their different personalities meant that relations between them were not always cordial. Timpson once described Redhead as "the walking image of every garden gnome you'd ever seen" and revealed that they often quarrelled "like two spoilt kids", even sometimes on air.

Timpson became a journalist in 1945 when, at 17, he joined his hometown paper, the Wembley News, straight from Merchant Taylors' School. He left after a year to do his National Service in the Army but rejoined the paper afterwards and stayed there until 1951. That was a critical year in his life, for it was then that he married Patricia Whale and moved to Norfolk to join the Dereham & Fakenham Times, soon switching to the Eastern Daily Press.

He did not take instantly to Norfolk. "To a born-and-bred suburbanite, on a wet Sunday in January in the early 1950s, it looked like the end of the civilised world," he wrote. Yet he soon warmed to it and his love of East Anglia, and of rural life in general, was reflected in several of the books he would later write.

Indeed, it was with some reluctance that he relocated to London in 1959 to begin his broadcasting career with the BBC, as a news reporter for both radio and television. He was appointed deputy court correspondent in 1962 and made several tours abroad with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. In 1968 his easy, confident manner persuaded the BBC that he would make a natural presenter and he did a stint on Newsroom, one of several short-lived attempts by the controllers of BBC2 to produce a news magazine before they hit on the successful Newsnight formula a decade later.

In 1970 he was poached by Radio 4 to present Today. The immensely popular de Manio was a hard act to follow, but Timpson and Redhead very soon gained the loyalty of the programme's two and a half million regular listeners. They became household names - so much so that after six years Timpson was lured back to television to present Tonight. This was not Cliff Michelmore's legendary early evening programme of the Sixties, but a less successful late evening version whose other presenters included Sue Lawley and Donald McCormick.

After two years, his BBC bosses decided that he was more suited by radio than television. His slightly moon-faced appearance was seen as a drawback at a time when chiselled film-star features were becoming a must for on-screen newsreaders and current-affairs presenters. So he went back to the invisibility of Today, this time for an eight-year stint. And from 1984 he combined this with taking the chair of Radio 4's weekly discussion programme, Any Questions.

On leaving Today in 1986 Timpson was presented with a Sony Gold Award for outstanding services to radio, and the following year he was appointed OBE. From then on, he devoted much of his time to writing books. He had already produced an autobiography Today and Yesterday (1976) and an account of his adventures in radio, The Lighter Side of Today (1983), but from 1987 he began a popular series of travelogues about England, beginning in 1987 with Timpson's England: a look beyond the obvious.

For a time he wrote a column in the Daily Mail and in 1995 returned to television, presenting an ITV series called Timpson's Country Churches, which spawned one of his most popular books. His last, published in 2002, was Timpson on the Verge, about road signs in Norfolk villages.

In his later years he took an active part in the life of his own Norfolk village, Weasenham St Peter, near King's Lynn, as secretary of the parochial church council. In an interview last year he said he loved the peace and quiet and the absence of tourists - deterred, as he thought, by NoŽl Coward's laconic description of the county as "very flat". He said he still listened to part of the Today programme, but then switched over to "the real world" of Radio Norfolk.

Michael Leapman

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Re: John Timpson
Reply #5 - Nov 21st, 2005, 6:24am
 
This is taken from the Daily Telegraph:

John Timpson
(Filed: 21/11/2005)


John Timpson, who died on Saturday aged 77, was a popular presenter on Radio 4's early morning news and current affairs programme Today from 1970 to 1986.

His crisp but cheerful and relaxed voice and his dry sense of humour became an integral part of the breakfast routine in millions of households. One-liners such as "Insulation - Britain lags behind" or "Crash course for learner drivers" were an intrinsic part of his style and humour, as was his habit of punctuating jokes with a basso "ho ho".

He was also noted for the politeness of his interviews, which earned him a reputation of being "one of the nicest people on the BBC". His instinct for journalistic detachment also made him careful to display impartiality when dealing with political issues.

At times he felt obliged to "play the devil's advocate, putting forward the other side of the argument", but he said: "I hope I have never revealed the way I vote."

His voice was variously described as avuncular, fruity or reminiscent of dark brown chocolate, but overall perfectly matched the dawn. Sean Day-Lewis observed in The Sunday Telegraph that it suggested "a man who has had to leave his bed quickly because of some emergency, dishevelled but determined, seeing things through with a rueful sense of humour".

This impression was in many respects true of the daily routine. A microphone deadline of 6.30am meant waking up at around 4am, for which Timpson relied on two alarm clocks as well as an early morning call. He often slept in the Langham Hotel, opposite the BBC, on the night before he was to present a Today programme. He would get to work at 4.30am to read the newspapers before attending a 5.30am briefing and typing his script.

Libby Purves observed that beneath his cheerful manner he sometimes had "cross, grumpy cantankerous mornings". "But," she went on, "when, in the old days, I would be on the point of braining John with a waste-paper basket, some spontaneous but beautifully paced Timpson joke would disarm me."

He was, as she admitted, "a total professional: a straight, polite interviewer whose politics are publicly neutral. Above all he is a purveyor of beautifully crafted jokes."

He had the reputation of being unflappable. In fact Timpson's relaxed style belied his skill and quickness of mind as he tackled what was essentially a complicated craft job. Libby Purves pointed out that his skill lay in managing the requirements to "hit fixed time points with precision, cut off garrulous ministers in time to get Thought for the Day on [and] think of quick one-liners to change the pace without taking more than eight seconds over them".

A large affable man, over six feet tall with kind brown eyes, Timpson was described by John Gaskell in The Sunday Telegraph as "well suited to the role of an agreeably indulgent uncle".

When he retired from Today on Christmas Eve 1986 he had helped to present nearly 3,000 editions and his co-presenters over the years included Jack de Manio, Robert Robinson, and Brian Redhead. He received the Sony Gold Award for outstanding services to radio and the following year, 1987, he was appointed OBE for outstanding services to broadcasting.

Yet the qualities which made Today his forte did not serve him well on television. In 1976 he attempted to become a television presenter on the BBC2 current affairs programme Tonight, but left after 18 months to return to Today.

Critics variously described some of his interviews as "lightweight" and "rather unctuous" and Timpson himself later commented: "Basically, I didn't look as good on TV as I sound on radio."

He was chairman of Radio 4's Any Questions? for three years from 1984 to 1987 but, although in control, "never seemed at ease," according The Sunday Telegraph.

His long introductions were said to leave some guests shaking with rage at their inappropriateness and his announcement: "That, ladies and gentlemen, is your panel," displayed what many felt a remoteness from the Any Questions? audience. It may simply have been that years presenting Today had created too distinctive a stamp of personality for the programme.

John Harry Robert Timpson was born at Kenton, Middlesex, on July 2 1928, the son of a bank manager. He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School but left at 16 to become a cub reporter with the Wembley News.

His career was interrupted by National Service with the Royal Army Service Corps from 1946 to 1949, after which he returned to the Wembley News until 1951, when he joined the Eastern Daily Press.

In 1959 he joined the BBC as a radio and television reporter on general assignments both at home and abroad and from 1962 to 1967 was the BBC Deputy Court Correspondent reporting on the Australian, Ethiopian and other Royal tours.

He then switched to the world of international politics, reporting Harold Wilson's Tiger talks with Ian Smith; the coup in Greece; Rhodesia's independence as Zimbabwe; and three American presidential elections.

He was a newscaster on BBC2 from 1968 to 1970, before joining the Today programme as a junior presenter in 1970 with Jack de Manio. Timpson belonged to a generation of radio journalists who rose through the ranks and emerged only in middle age as front-rank presenters. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he did not become a freelance, which offered more pay, but remained on the staff of the BBC.

He described himself as a man wondrously lucky to have had the career he enjoyed. He was also relieved that his "one big howler" was not dug up. That was when he described the marathon walker Barbara Moore as "climbing the steps of Marble Arch". There are no steps to Marble Arch: Timpson, who was on location and had lost her in the crowd, was desperately ad libbing.

After retirement from broadcasting he moved to his country cottage in Norfolk, and continued to write a column for the Eastern Daily Press. He also compiled an anecdotal book about places of interest, Timpson's England - A Look Beyond The Obvious (1987), and many others (including volumes on inns, country churches, trains, towns, villages, eccentrics and - oddest of all - ley lines) in a similar vein. He also published an autobiography, Today and Yesterday (1976); The Lighter Side of Today (1983), and The Early Morning Book (1986).

For many years he owned a four-berth cabin cruiser in which he and his family would escape to "somewhere in East Anglia".

He married, in 1951, Patricia Whale; they had two sons, one of whom died earlier this year.
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Re: John Timpson
Reply #6 - Dec 14th, 2005, 7:37am
 
This letter recalling John appeared in The Guardian, December 13, 2005:

from Marshall Stewart

Recruiting John Timpson (obituary, November 21) to form the first two-man presenter team for BBC Radio 4's Today programme was a key part of restructuring what was already an institution. In 1970, Today was a world away from its subsequent role as the network's news and current affairs flagship. Before taking over as editor, I visited the studio. The first edition completed by 7.45am, the team left the studio and decamped to a dining room where a waitress produced breakfast on silver trays. When I inquired about the impending second edition, I was told: "No need to worry. We record the first edition and play it again after the eight o'clock news."

John came with a substantial track record as a BBC television and radio reporter, plus BBC2 experience as a presenter. He negotiated the tricky process of establishing himself alongside the legendary Jack de Manio with much patience and some humour, before forging more straightforward partnerships with Robert Robinson and Brian Redhead.

Much has been made of John's predilection for light-hearted material. Yet I remember being alongside him on the roof of Broadcasting House, Belfast, as he introduced Today against the background of small arms fire during the period of internment, when his real strengths as a newsman showed through. True, later in the programme, he interviewed a Belfast comedian about the art of telling sectarian jokes across the divide, but that was confirmation of his belief, as a listener's broadcaster, that life - and Today - is about light as well as shade.
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