George Alagiah

  • 25 July 2006

This article is from 2006.

It's oft been grumbled that today's television newsreaders lack the gravitas of their predecessors. With the unstoppable rise of the internet and the general dumbing down of broadcasting, the newscaster no longer presents the image of stern but protective authority figure, empowered by fresh information of global significance. Instead, viewers are served up thinking men's and women's 'crumpet', perching cosily on the edges of desks, grinning widely and cracking asides in order not to frighten the poor viewers with their nasty, scary tales. Even on the dear old beeb, tax-subsidised autocue jockeys are seemingly contractually obliged to be 'good sports' dressing up and humiliating themselves for the sake of Children in Need or Red Nose Day.

Yet, there's still a narrow band of BBC newsreaders who command the respect of the public. This ever rarer breed includes Six O' Clock News presenter George Alagiah, who carved out a lengthy career as an international journalist before settling behind the newsroom desk. Born in Sri Lanka and raised in Ghana before his family moved to the UK, Alagiah has brought a genuinely international perspective to his seventeen years work as a BBC journalist, which began following eight years spent working in print media. The international political figures he's interviewed during his multi-award winning reporting career include Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Yasser Arafat, Robert Mugabe and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. His first book, A Passage to Africa, detailing his long relationship with the continent, was published in 2001 and won the Madoc Award at the Guardian Hay-on-Wye literary festival.

Reporting on the catastrophic Asian Tsunami of winter 2004, Alagiah returned to Sri Lanka. 'The events of the past two weeks have surprised me at the strength of connection I felt with my birthplace ,' he wrote. 'In reporting on many disasters in my career, the one thing I have learnt is the amazing power of the human spirit. I've been to so many places where, at the worst possible times, you see ho strong the urge to survive is - and I have seen that here.'

Alagiah will be appearing at the politics festival, discussing his experiences of reporting international events in a question and answer session chaired by Trish Godman MSP, deputy presiding officer at the Scottish parliament. Perhaps now is a good time to quiz the reporter-turned-presenter on his step back from the front line. (Allan Radcliffe)

26 Aug, 3pm, £5 (£3).

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