Former ITV News editor Geoff Hill has died aged 52, four years after being diagnosed with leukaemia.
After initially temporarily stepping down while he underwent treatment, Hill resigned from ITV News a year ago after the disease relapsed to concentrate on fighting it “with everything I have”.
He had been appointed ITV News editor in 2013, having first joined the team in 2000 and rising through the ranks to programme editor of News at Ten before leaving in 2009 for stints as editor of Setanta Sports News, director of coverage at CNN International, and editor of 5 News.
Just two weeks ago Hill spoke to ITV News presenter Mary Nightingale for the Mail on Sunday to raise awareness for the charity Cure Leukaemia, for which he had become a trustee.
He was hopeful to be accepted onto a CAR-T trial, in which immune-boosting T-cells are genetically engineered to attack cancer cells.
He said of his 2020 relapse: “I felt like I was back to square one.” Of his decision to stand down as editor, he added: “It was the cruellest thing. I was about to return – but after my relapse, I knew I had to do it.
“Nothing is as shocking as getting a leukaemia diagnosis. But in some ways, this blow was on a par.”
Hill’s wife Nat, who he married earlier this year and who also works for ITV News, said: “To some at ITN Geoff was a bit of a legend they knew little about, to others their greatest boss, to many their greatest colleague.”
He is also survived by his three children: Emily, 20, Olivia, ten, and Alfie, nine.
As ITV News editor Hill, who spent 30 years in journalism, was responsible for the channel’s national news programmes, ITV News London, ITN-produced Tonight programmes, current affairs show On Assignment, and live specials and documentaries.
— Erron Gordon (@errongordon) September 16, 2021
‘Huge smile on his face’
Rachel Corp, who has succeeded Hill as ITV News editor, said: “Geoff was so much a part of this newsroom and in so many of our lives for so long, and even over the last few years when he hasn’t always been with us in the newsroom, we’ve always felt his presence, as a friend, a colleague, an inspiration to us all.
“For me, whenever I think of Geoff it’s with a huge smile on his face, in the middle of it all, loving the thrill and pace of the day, always excited about what story was breaking, how we were going to get the inside track, the triumph after a brilliant programme. He also always cared deeply about his team, all of us in it together, being the best.”
Deborah Turness, chief executive of ITN, which produces ITV News, said: “Geoff loved ITN and everything good it stands for and was fiercely proud to be named editor of ITV News. He once said it was ‘the proudest moment of my entire working life’.
“He led from the front, with guts and raw energy. His enthusiasm was limitless because he just loved his job. He came to work every day with a big smile on this face.
“He was a force of nature and loved nothing more than to be at the heart of the barely controlled chaos of a breaking news story. He was fizzing with ideas, a human dynamo always ready for action.
“His passion was infectious, which was what made him a great programme maker and an exceptional leader.”
ITV political editor Robert Peston said Hill was a “brilliant editor”, adding: “He backed me and I will always be in his debt. More importantly, he was generous, kind, fun. Like so many whom he inspired, I am devastated.”
CNN International said in a statement: “All at CNN are so sad to hear that our friend and former colleague Geoff Hill has passed. His years at CNN International in London were very special for all who were lucky enough to work with him. Our deepest sympathies to his family, friends, and colleagues today.”
Cure Leukaemia said: “We’re devastated to hear the news that Geoff Hill has sadly passed away following his battle with leukaemia. Geoff was a very humble man who wanted to do all he could to help Cure Leukamia and was to join the board as a trustee. We send our sincere condolences to all his family.”
‘Proudest moment of my entire working life’
Hill was first diagnosed with leukaemia in September 2017 following a routine blood test. He told Nightingale: “Just a few hours before I found myself in hospital, I had been chairing the daily News At Ten editorial meeting.
“Then, sitting in a hospital room, I saw my work suit hanging on the door while a stranger’s blood was being transfused into my body. That is how quickly life can change. The weekend leading up to my diagnosis, I went to a football match, the theatre and the pub. Little did I know my immune system was pretty much non-existent.”
His subsequent treatment included a stem cell transplant, 100 rounds of chemotherapy, 38 bone marrow biopsies, radiotherapy and more than 6,000 pills. He also suffered a severe bout of sepsis in March 2019 and was put in an induced coma earlier this summer after having a seizure.
He told staff upon his resignation as editor last year: “When I was appointed editor of this great newsroom in 2013 it was the proudest moment of my entire working life. And as I step down today, I would be greatly honoured to think that you all considered me worthy of the office, and that I brought a fresh perspective to managing the newsroom whilst doing my very best to uphold the finest journalistic traditions of ITV News and ITN.”
He added: “I was so excited about returning to work. I couldn’t believe it was really happening. But this aggressive disease is at its most cruel just when you think things are starting to improve. In the same way it has savaged my health and denied me the simple pleasures of life, and prevented me making plans for the future, it has now taken away the job, the newsroom and the colleagues that I have admired and respected for so many years.
“For me, the future is uncertain. But I am in the fight. I haven’t endured countless rounds of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and medical procedures to give up now. I will fight this thing with everything I have, with the brilliant medical team at King’s, and with the amazing support of my wonderful family and friends.
“As I write this it feels as though my time at ITV News has gone very quickly. I sincerely hope your time won’t be stopped as abruptly as the day I was torn away from the newsroom, but when it does come to an end you’ll look back, as I am now, and you’ll realise how quickly it went.
“So please remember this: what we do – what you do – is a tremendous honour, and a privilege. You work for the best news organisation in the world. You have a tremendous responsibility and with it enormous opportunity, one you must embrace each and every day. There’s only one thing worse than your worst day at ITV News, and that’s not being there at all. Trust me, I know what that’s like. I just can’t believe it’s come to an end, and that the timing is completely out of my control.”
More tributes to Geoff Hill:
A heartbreaking farewell to our brilliant boss Geoff Hill – the life and soul of so many occasions, including our greatest victory of all at the annual News Quiz.
Thank you for so many pieces of sound advice, including the recent baby tips. I will cherish them all. X pic.twitter.com/PyqRQRgZEy
— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) September 16, 2021
We are all beyond devastated to share the news that our friend and colleague @geoffhillITV has passed away.
He fought and fought the leukaemia which hit him 4 years ago and he did it bravely.
He was part of our family and we will miss him. Rest in Peace https://t.co/ps5dz7jbtr
— Chris Ship (@chrisshipitv) September 16, 2021
Geoff Hill: My friend, my boss, and adored husband of one my best friends. He was so brave and courageous in the face of his illness and will be so missed by his friends, colleagues and family. https://t.co/YOJMYdK9hZ
— delilahjeary (@delilahjeary) September 16, 2021
I first met Geoff Hill when he came to work at LNN with me from his local paper in Southwark. His enthusiasm for life, his nose for a story and that cheeky grin were as much in evidence the last time we spoke as they were on that day 30 years ago. Rest in peace my love xxx
— Cristina Nicolotti S (@skynewsgirl) September 16, 2021
So sad to hear this. Geoff was a really great guy and a brilliant boss. Will always be grateful for the opportunities he gave me. Thinking of all his family and many friends. I will miss him. #GeoffHill https://t.co/nl2H6vFKCZ
— Robyn Dwyer (@RobynDwyer) September 16, 2021
Desperately sad day for all at @itvnews and across broadcast journalism. RIP Geoff Hill. We will miss you dearly, your passion for news, love and support for colleagues and of course Crystal Palace FC. All thoughts with your friends and family. xx https://t.co/sTDqhH1git
— Rupert Evelyn (@rupertevelyn) September 16, 2021
Desperately sad news this morning that’s hard to comprehend. My former News Editor at #GMTV and until recently Editor of @itvnews Geoff Hill has passed away after a tough battle against Leukaemia. He was an incredible journalist and bloke who I’m proud to have worked for. pic.twitter.com/LCmDYlTsg2
— Duncan Wood (@duncanwooditv) September 16, 2021
As a journalist it was impossible not to learn from Geoff Hill. A brilliant tv man and an even better human being. Always had time for everyone, even when he didn’t. When you thought something was perfect, he could make it better.
He certainly made better. I’ll miss you mate. RIP https://t.co/clt8K6SGdY
— Andy Kerr (@AndyKerrtv) September 16, 2021
Such sad news about my former @5_News boss Geoff Hill. Such great memories of his zest for the job. We once did my annual appraisal in a hotel bar at 1am over some beverages:
Geoff – “you happy?”
Me – “yep”
Geoff – “great I’ll get that all typed up and put in the system” pic.twitter.com/ouNXHTSpuI
— Peter Lane (@peterofthelane) September 16, 2021