For over thirty five years, Alastair Stewart has been one of the most trusted and respected news broadcasters in the UK. Beginning his television career for Channel Four News, ITN promptly saw his potential as a news anchor and relocated him to the now familiar world of ITV News where he has since become an institution. Stewart began his distinguished career in news broadcasting surrounded by icons of the art including Alastair Burnet; a figure whom the young broadcaster had admired for a very long time. It was astonishing to think that Stewart was now co-anchoring the ITN News alongside his childhood hero. It was here that he truly learned the many trials and tribulations of being a television news presenter and together the two Alastairs dominated the airwaves for over two decades.
Press play, below, to listen to the full interview
Now into his fourth decade in broadcasting, Stewart finds himself on the other end of his career with upcoming television talent biting at his heels. On the evening of June 8th, instead of fronting the now legendary ITN Election Night, Alastair Stewart will be watching the action unfold from the comfort of his sofa while Tom Bradbury provides the analysis for ITN. Instead of being downhearted, Stewart realises that this is the natural course for any leading broadcaster in the UK.
With so many stories and international events that he’s been witness to, it’s extremely difficult for Alastair to pick just one which has moved him the most. Yet he states that the siege of Beslan in South Ossetia was probably the most moving and poignant events he’s been witness to. In the days of the ITV News Channel, Alastair was live on air for four hours to report on this emotionally moving story which broke the hearts of the nation. It is only these stories which remind you of the huge responsibility which a newscaster has to report real life stories to the rest of the country.
His relaxed but informative attitude to the art of news journalism made Alastair the perfect candidate to front GMTV’s Sunday Programme from 1994 to 2001. In a crowded market of political programming, it’s sometimes difficult to find an angle that sets you apart from the rest. However Alastair has always had the belief that politics should be able to be accessible to everyone irrespective of their age, creed or background so this programme attempted to make politics relevant and stimulating for all. In turn, this set the benchmark for political programmes hereafter to reflect the opinions and desires of the man in the street.
As a lover of all things television, I am constantly fascinated by the many significant differences between ITV and the BBC News and current affairs are probably one of the most obvious examples of this difference in presenting styles. Alastair was able to summarise this in a way which I had never heard before stating that both networks were tasked with presenting the news in a non-biased, informative manner but with the benefit of ITV being able to be a little more “sassy” and relaxed about the stories that it wishes to tell.
On the subject of news presentation, I was interested to know his views on the dual anchor team as opposed to the lone newscaster. As far as ITV are concerned, when it comes to news, predominantly two heads are better than one. As Alastair explains, this is an invaluable technique for breaking news as while one anchor is presenting, the other is able to keep an ear to breaking stories which may be happening. A fascinating insight to the art of presentation.
Beyond the news, Alastair fronted the traffic fly-on-the-wall series Police, Camera, Action for ITV where he reported on the most outlandish incidents which happened on Britain’s roads. In the days before real life cop shows, this was the first time television had gone undercover to expose dangerous automotive antics. Like most television formats, the show ran its course before being superseded by more reality based programmes. Yet Police, Camera, Action can rest safe in the knowledge that it set the standard for all other shows of this kind and its legacy still lives on.
Coming into his fourth decade in television, there seems no sign of Alastair Stewart slowing down and offers of TV work remain as rapid as ever. He’s unsure of his next move but has expressed an interest in the documentary world. Yet whatever is next for the man of the news, one thing is assured that he will do it in the same style and grace which the public has become accustomed to. It was an absolute pleasure to spend the afternoon with a television news icon and there’s no doubt that when I grow up, I want to be Alastair Stewart!