RTS Regional Presenter nominee Stewart White looks back on a career in broadcasting and being part of the furniture.
Stewart White is a regular at the RTS Television Journalism Awards having won the Regional Presenter of the Year in 2013, 2014 and 2016.
He is nominated once again for his work presenting BBC Look East. “It’s nice that the viewers who watch Look East know that it’s a well-regarded programme” he reflects.
The key to the success of the programme, he believes, is knowing the audience. “We cover stories which really matter to people who live in the region.”
Although not a native of the region, White has been presenting Look East since 1984. “I think of myself as part of the furniture,” he laughs. “An old chair that sits in the corner, that people sit on every night and they wouldn’t throw out, but they probably think it a bit threadbare.”
“My father was a farmer [in Wiltshire], and when people moved into our village, he never accepted them as local until they’d been there 20-odd years. So now I think I’ve probably been accepted as local – just about.”
White is not a comfortable interviewee. “I’m not easy at this, am I?” he apologises. “Perhaps I am in the wrong line of business.”
“I think there are two kinds of people that come into television and radio. There are those who are ‘Here I am! I am just the [best]’, and those who are actually quite shy, and [for whom] communicating through a microphone or through a camera is actually a lot easier than walking into a crowded room. I don’t enjoy walking into a room.”
Despite that shy streak, White is recognised across the industry for his interviews. “If I can hold somebody to account, or I can elicit something from somebody then I have done my job,” he believes.
“If somebody is trying to lie to me, or be economical with the truth, I think that is an open door. I’m not aggressive. My questions are by and large short. I’m never interested really in letting anybody know how much I know. I don’t think I’m the important thing in the interview. It’s the answers I am able to get.”
“I don’t think I can ever do it for my own ego. I think it’s to do with getting answers for the people who are watching.”
After around 40 years in broadcasting, White has seen many major changes in the industry. Regional television has grown, he says. “I think if we looked back at what we were doing then we might be disappointed in some of our attitudes at some points.”
The original skateboarding duck came from regional television, White recalls. Now, he says, “we are dealing with subjects which affect the daily lives of people who are watching.”
Although, he reflects, “if we had a skateboarding duck, it would have an enormous number of hits…
The RTS Television Journalism Awards take place at the London Hilton on Park Lane on 1 March 2017.