It’s nobody’s fault, really, but it still gave me a shock when Linked In yesterday urged me to congratulate Julian Keane for his 35-year work
anniversary at the BBC.
This lovely, clever, witty, kindly, dedicated journalist died in 2019
- at the age of 57.
Unlike similar breakfast news shows on television, WT presenters turned up in those days many hours before transmission, working say from 19:30 at night until 07:30 the next morning. We’d study our briefs, think of tricky questions, record interviews, write headlines and trails - take lunch at 2am - and then anchor and interview some more, live, for the remaining three or four hours.
It was demanding, and I’m sure it demanded way too much from us really.
Presenters largely have a shorter shift pattern now, for the morning show - but producers still work that punishing schedule.
Bless them all. And all those folks who work overnight, so the rest of us don’t have to.
In January 2014, fellow WT presenter Komla Dumor died of a heart attack the day after a show.
Another warm and intelligent man. He was 41.
And later that same year, my dear friend Mark Whittaker died. That really shook me.
He was 57, like Julian. And again, a hard-working, creative radio man, and determined journalist - who would make you laugh uproariously.
You can tell that from the irreverent way he treated an ancient BBC microphone, in this photo with me and fellow presenter, Fergus Nichol.
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From ’feeling a bit ill” to his funeral took just two months.
I’ll never be able to prove it, but those adrenaline-filled overnight shifts can’t have helped him maintain good health.
He always looked great, but long-term loss of sleep and defying your circadian rhythm is never right.
Mark is still on Linked In. What do you do?
I’m so glad Max Pearson is still with us.
Also a top-notch presenter for WT, he now hosts The History House for the BBC World Service - a family of radio networks which attracts the world’s largest audience (they say about half a billion in new surveys).
He almost didn’t make it...
He’d been in Japan, covering the Fukushima nuclear power station disaster, in 2011.
Hurrying home via Singapore, he suffered a heart attack during his flight. He asked for help.
But the crew didn’t understand what he was saying. Nor what a fellow passenger - a doctor - had written and shown them.
Instead of landing somewhere in South East Asia, Max only received medical help when he arrived in London - 10 hours later.
He really wanted to go back to anchoring The World Today. Such is the pull of great programmes. Fortunately his doctors forbade him, and I think he’d be dead otherwise.
Max told me his family doctor laid down some rules immediately after his emergency treatment. His liver and kidneys had been compromised, I think, and so he had to decide to keep his diet as ‘regular’ as possible. Not bland necessarily : just predictable. For example he had to choose either to cut out alcohol altogether - or always to have a particular tipple every day.
Max chose a daily glass of red wine - doctor’s orders.
I’ll raise a glass to him, tonight. And to Komla. And to Mark. And to Julian too.
Photos : BBC
Graphic : NHS