Tributes to ‘genius’ Sheffield-born newsreader

Sir Alastair Burnet.
Sir Alastair Burnet.
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Sheffield-born presenter Sir Alastair Burnet was hailed by colleagues as ‘the finest journalist of our time’ at a memorial service celebrating his life today.

The former News At Ten presenter – also a distinguished reporter, national newspaper editor and a voice of state occasions – died in July following a series of strokes, aged 84.

He anchored numerous elections, the first Moon landing and the wedding of the Prince of Wales to the then Lady Diana Spencer, as well as becoming known for his royal documentaries.

Today, two former colleagues paid tribute to him, with ex-News At Ten presenter Sir Trevor McDonald describing him as a genius.

Speaking before the memorial event at St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, Trafalgar Square, central London, Sir Trevor said: “Sir Alastair was simply the finest journalist of our time. He was a man of great authority, he was well-learned and he was absolutely brilliant in the art of telling people what went on in the world.

“He took his great, great time to make sure it was done professionally. He was the genius, he was the one who led the way – we all follow in his wake.

“He was extremely helpful to anybody joining the profession, he took time and care to pass on tips.

“He was simply the most wonderful colleague.”

Peter Sissons, who also worked with Sir Alastair on News At Ten, said: “I worked with Alastair many, many times on many special programmes and I news-casted with him on News At Ten – a formidable colleague, there was no-one with a better broadcasting brain.

“They don’t make them like Sir Alastair anymore – a man of absolute meticulousness when it came to checking a story out, he had real high standards.

“I think if any young people coming into the business today want a role model, they couldn’t look much further than him.”

Among the other luminaries of the news industry attending the event were Sir Alastair’s friend Andrew Neil, his fellow BBC presenter David Dimbleby, political journalist Michael Crick and ITV News presenter Alastair Stewart.