Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Nick Heathcote

“You’ve never been in a porn film have you? If there’s anything I might read in a newspaper one day you’d better tell me now.”

It was 1991 and Nick Heathcote, the editor of Newsround, had just hired me as his new presenter.

“Sometimes I’ll tell you to fuck off. Sometimes you’ll tell me to fuck off. But
I hope we’ll generally get on” he continued. He had to turn me from a
cocky 21-year-old student into someone worthy of following in John
Craven’s footsteps. Over the next three years he taught me more about
journalism and television than anyone before or since.

We were
all heavy smokers back then and Nick had designated his office as a
smoking room. We used to wander in and out whenever we wanted. He was
passionate about his programme and insistent that good reporters follow
their instincts. “You must be able to explain the most complex story to
an eight-year-old without assuming knowledge, patronising or boring
them,” he’d say.

That philosophy attracted as many adults to
Newsround as it did children and we used to get more adult viewers than
Newsnight and Breakfast News put together.

In those days
Newsround was looked upon with a mixture of sneering and admiration by
our colleagues in BBC News. Martin Bell, Keith Graves and Michael Buerk
were all big supporters and Nick got them all doing stories for the
programme.

But he also had to fight off the snobs who thought we
should know our place. When the newsroom tried to stop me doing an
interview with Gorbachev in Moscow and hand it to their correspondent,
Nick had to fight them off. He looked on us as his protégés. He sent me
around the world from the Yugoslav wars and US elections to natural
disasters in Asia. In 1992, when Nick decided we should run a mock
general election for British children, more than a million votes were
cast. He persuaded Peter Snow to bring his swingometer to the studio
and while I did my David Dimbleby impression, Labour sent a young MP
called Tony Blair to face me across the table. It was a dream training
ground.

Nick left Newsround shortly after I did. He took a fat
BBC redundancy cheque, sold the restaurant his partner ran and moved to
the Azores where he’s just opened a swanky hotel. It always gives me
hope that there might just be a life to live if my TV career goes belly
up. In three years we only told each other to “fuck off” once.

And he never did find out about my history in the porn industry.

Krishnan Guru-Murthy is a presenter on Channel 4 News.

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