Monday, 24 February 2020

Newsman files from the country

John Craven
Phyllis Court Club

VETERAN broadcaster John Craven received an enthusiastic welcome from a keen audience at Phyllis Court.

In conversation with Daniel Hahn, he looked back on personal and professional memories captured in his memoir, Headlines and Hedgerows.

He credits his writing skills to his father and took time to recount his father’s return home from Malaysia after the Second World War. He then took us through his childhood interest in writing, his early days as a cub reporter and how he moved from print to broadcasting.

It was particularly interesting to hear his reflections on the pioneering Newsround.

He explained how the house style, on a current affairs broadcast aimed at young viewers, was to accentuate the positive and inject some humour where possible.

Newsround benefited from being able to draw on the journalistic expertise of BBC stalwarts such as Michael Buerk and Martin Bell. But they generally veered away from dark topics such as murder.

Craven took a leap in the dark when he left Newsround for Countryfile in 1989 — but one that has turned out to be a great success.

Again, he gave interesting insights into how to get the pitch right for the audience, this time a mix of urban and country dwellers.

What came through clearly in this talk was Craven’s sheer enjoyment of what he does.

He claims to have been “very lucky” in his career, which might go some way to explaining why his memories are so positive and why, in his book, he bears no grudges. A very agreeable and entertaining session.

Susan Creed

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