BreaK­ing Sto­rieS froM around the World

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Royal Correspondent Becomes Patron -

Ni­cholas Witchell has been a jour­nal­ist with the BBC for nearly 40 years, and has worked on ma­jor sto­ries such as the as­sas­si­na­tion of Earl Mount­bat­ten, the IRA hunger strikes, the Falk­lands con­flict and Mar­garet Thatcher’s 1983 gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign.

In Septem­ber 1984 he was, with Sue Law­ley, one of the found­ing pre­sen­ters of BBC’s Six O’Clock News.

Dur­ing one bul­letin the pre­sen­ters were faced with a group of les­bian protesters who in­vaded the stu­dio, with Mr Witchell at­tempt­ing to muf­fle one who had hand­cuffed her­self to the news­desk by sit­ting on her.

He also pre­sented the re-launched Break­fast News be­tween 1989 to 1994, be­fore re­turn­ing to front line re­port­ing for the BBC, for Panorama and then as a BBC diplo­matic cor­re­spon­dent.

On Au­gust 31, 1997, he was the first jour­nal­ist to broad­cast the con­firmed news of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and pro­vided live ra­dio com­men­tary from out­side Westminster Abbey at her fu­neral.

The fol­low­ing year he be­came the royal and diplo­matic cor­re­spon­dent for the or­gan­i­sa­tion, a ti­tle he still holds.

Speak­ing of his role, he said: “I’ve been do­ing if for 15, 16 years now, and I en­joy it.

“Do­ing the royal job gives you a peek be­hind the cur­tain of this hugely sig­nif­i­cant in­sti­tu­tion within the UK.

“What comes across quite strongly, in­creas­ingly in re­cent years, is the enor­mous re­spect that there is for the Queen.

“She has been on the throne now for 63 years, the old­est monarch and long­est reign­ing monarch.

“As BBC royal cor­re­spon­dent I try to re­port it ac­cu­rately and in a way that is go­ing to be of some in­ter­est to the peo­ple at ei­ther end of the spec­trum – the ab­so­lute avowed monar­chist to those who are not sup­port­ive of the in­sti­tu­tion, who are a mi­nor­ity.”

He said the death of Princess Diana was one of the most mem­o­rable sto­ries he has cov­ered, adding: “I was the first jour­nal­ist to be told that princess Diana was dead.

“I was with For­eign Sec­re­tary Robin Cook in Manilla, Aus­tralia, and his press sec­re­tary. We were just about to fly to Sin­ga­pore when they heard from the hos­pi­tal that she had died.

“So I gave that news to the BBC news­room in Lon­don.

“It al­lowed them to pre­pare the way for the an­nounce­ment of her death 40 min­utes later.

“In the way that we all re­mem­ber where we were when we heard the news of the death, that was cer­tainly very mem­o­rable and shock­ing.

“It is ex­tra­or­di­nary to think it was 18 years ago.”

Princess Diana

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