Jon Snow – In Conversation

Journalist and television presenter Jon Snow went from Washington correspondent for ITN to becoming one of the most experienced and trusted broadcasters in Britain in a career spanning four decades which has seen him preside over some of the most defining events of the 20th and 21st century. Born in Ardingly, Sussex to parents George D’Oyly Snow, Bishop of Whitby, and Joan, a pianist who studied at the Royal College of Music Jon enjoyed a happy childhood at Ardingly college where his father was headmaster. After leaving St Edward’s school in Oxford at the age of eighteen, Jon took the brave decision to spend a year as a teaching volunteer in Uganda: an experience which would completely change his life when he came face to face with the notorious dictator Idi Amin who had fallen asleep whilst his gun lay invitingly on the ground. This left Jon with an ethical dilemma:  did he shoot this man, potentially saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of people? Or did he maintain self control and not be arrested for murdering one of the most prolific dictators in world history? In hindsight the Ugandan prison service’s loss was definitely British broadcasting’s gain and promptly laid the foundations for Jon’s life in politics and current affairs.

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Joining ITN in 1976, this was the first time Jon had appeared on television and was very nervous as to how he would come over to the audience. As a natural broadcaster, he had no problem in perfecting his delivery yet was constantly paranoid about his appearance through fear of an impromptu bogey hanging out of his nose in the middle of a very serious and emotive piece to camera…fortunately this has yet to happen but the fear has never gone away. In November 1978 he was seconded to Vietnam to report on the plight of the boat people which gained him recognition within his field and brought him to the attention of senior management who liked what they saw.


By 1983 Jon had risen to ITN’s Washington correspondent and it was here that he learned the true meaning of Britain’s ‘special relationship’ with the US. This was the era of Reagan and Thatcher and whilst on the outside it looked like the two leaders opted into an open and healthy understanding, the USA always had the power to flex its political muscle to make things work for them. So according to many journalists this special relationship may not be that special after all. America has forever been jealous of Britain’s rich cultural heritage and this has become a strong incentive to keep us as their most prized ally. Even now with the slightly awkward rapport between Trump and May, this understanding is still mutually beneficial for both nations but speculation remains as to how ‘special’ this relationship actually is.


A born reporter and communicator, Jon never saw himself leaving the fast paced world of front line journalism. Yet in 1989 following persuasion from executives, he was lured into the safe confines of the television studio to present the new look Channel Four News. Still a relatively fresh news outlet, Jon was able to use his expertise as a reporter to hone his skills as a presenter in a relaxed and casual setting but still managing to convey the biggest stories of the day in a clear and unbiased manner. Learning from his journalistic predecessors including Alistair Burnett and Robin Day, Jon was quickly able to perfect his own style which has kept him at the very top of his profession for over three decades.


In 1992 Jon replaced the retiring Alistair Burnett as the main anchor of ITN’s election night coverage. Such a mammoth event requires an extensive production team along with countless reporters who periodically appear in the major constituencies as they await the results, spin experts who analyse the events as they unfold and studio guests who provide insight into the unfolding action. Therefore as anchor Jon was very glad of the unrivalled expertise of the people around him who helped the broadcast come together. As history tells us, the 1992 general election was won by John Major’s Tory government with 336 seats, the largest victory in modern political history. Such a momentous night proved to be Snow’s one and only occasion in the hot seat on election night but it’s still a great experience in a career with so many accolades.


Having tackled election night, Jon returned to Channel Four News where he was now part of the television establishment. By this time Jon was slowly becoming an elder statesman of TV news and believed that the audience should see a more human side to his personality. He gave some thought as to how he would accomplish this without risking devaluing the content which he was presenting and finally decided upon wearing colourful ties to add some dynamism to proceedings. This is just the perfect amount of pizazz in order to find the perfect balance between serious and yet informal. Walking into the Channel Four News studio one is taken aback by just how small it is, yet Jon’s authoritative tone naturally makes it feel like a palace.


In 2011 Jon launched the new look Channel Four Nightly News alongside former BBC reporter Krishnan Guru-Murthy as the programme updated from a solo anchor to a dual presenting team. This has been a successful format and eight years later the nightly programme is still greatly received by the television audience. This popularity has assisted Jon in obtaining cult status and got the attention of comedians and writers for his straight delivery. In 2005 Jon appeared on The Big Fat Quiz Of The Year giving fake news stories based on song lyrics, with “I Predict A Riot” and “Crazy Chick”. Unbeknown to all concerned including Jon, this would be the start of a long standing slot which would see him reading the lyrics to some of the year’s biggest tune. Most of the time Jon has no idea what he’s reading but if it illustrates that the serious news broadcaster has a brighter side to his personality, this can only be a good thing.


In 2018 Jon volunteered to take a pay cut to help to highlight the gender inequalities within the media. This was something that he felt hugely passionate about as he doesn’t see any difference in ability between male and female broadcasters and therefore sees absolutely no reason why men should be paid more. A man of strong morals, this was an issue which Jon felt needed highlighting and if that meant taking a pay cut then it was a worthwhile sacrifice. Such a gesture may be the perfect way to sum him up: an intelligent, principled broadcaster with a twinkle in his eye. It was a great pleasure to meet and interview the great Jon Snow and looking forward to seeing the next instalment of his remarkable career.