Page last updated at 20:57 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

Newsnight alumni: Where are they now?

Top Row: Jana Bennett, Jay Hunt, Shaun Woodward. Middle Row: Jenni Murray, Evan Davis, Peter Horrocks. Bottom Row: Krishnan Guru Murthy, Mark Lawson, Fiona Bruce

Michael Crick
BBC Newsnight

If Anthony Sampson were still alive today and updating his Anatomy of Britain series he would need a whole chapter on the tentacles and influence of the many hundreds of people who have worked for Newsnight over the last 30 years.

Forget Eton, the Freemasons or McKinsey. Former Newsnight staff are the dog-dirt of modern Britain - they get everywhere - from the gutter to the House of Lords.

Tom Kelly
Tom Kelly went on to become Tony Blair's spokesman

Let's start with my own field, politics, where the programme can boast two current government ministers, Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas, who both worked on the show in the late 1980s.

Jane Bonham-Carter, a Newsnight producer in the early 1990s, became director of communications for the Liberal Democrats, and is now Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury.

The Conservative MP Adam Holloway claims to have worked for the show, though nobody remembers him.

David Kerr (programme editor early 00s) has three times been an unsuccessful SNP candidate, most recently in last year's Glasgow North East by-election. He also used to edit Newsnight Scotland, so must be used to mass rejection by now.

Tom Kelly (late 80s) later became Prime Minister Tony Blair's last spokesman in Downing Street, Andrew Brown (late 80s) is now better known as the current prime minister's kid brother, while Pam Giddy (late 90s) runs the Power Commission campaign.

BBC bigwigs

Far too many BBC bigwigs cut their teeth on Newsnight, including the Director General Mark Thompson, Director of Vision Jana Bennett, BBC One Controller Jay Hunt, World Service Director Peter Horrocks (Newsnight's eighth editor 1994-97), and the controllers of Radio 4, Mark Damazer, and Radio 5 Live, Adrian van Klaveren, who were all producers in the 80s and 90s.

Tony Hall
Tony Hall now runs the Royal Opera House

The distinguished docudrama director Peter Kosminsky was a once a Newsnight journalist, Radio 4 presenters Jenni Murray, Sarah Montague and Evan Davis all had long spells on the programme, as did the BBC TV news presenter Fiona Bruce, and Krishnan Guru Murthy of Channel 4 News.

Our alumni also include the Endemol executive Tim Hincks.

Our seventh editor Tim Gardam (1990-93) subsequently ranged both low and high. He brought Big Brother to Channel 4, but has now achieved academic respectability as principal of St Anne's College, Oxford.

Former 80s producer Tony Hall runs the Royal Opera House, Sir John Tusa (presenter early 80s) used to run the Barbican Centre.

Joan Bakewell (arts correspondent 1986-88) is now the government's "voice" for older people.

Will Hutton (economics correspondent 1983-88) later edited The Observer, and Adam Raphael (briefly a presenter in the mid-80s) still edits the Good Hotel Guide.

Guardian columnist Jackie Ashley spent several months as a Newsnight newsreader in the early 80s, when a separate presenter (always female) used to read the news-belt each night.

A reptilian brotherhood

Newsnight even boasted a sports slot at one time, whose presenters included the former England cricket captain Tony Lewis, and the former Coventry City goalkeeper David Icke, who became a spokesman for the Green Party.

Icke now attracts even more ridicule than the rest of us, by writing books and running road-shows which explain how the world is run by a reptilian brotherhood which originates from the constellation Draco, and whose members live in tunnels and caverns inside the Earth.

Mark Lawson
Mark Lawson's novel Idlewild features a character named Michael Crick

David Davies, a presenter in the mid-80s, went on the become communications chief at the Football Association, and its chief executive for several brief stints - though his greatest distinction was probably to ghost-write Glenn Hoddle's memoirs.

Peter Kellner (political analyst early 90s) is now president of the polling firm YouGov, and married Europe's new Foreign Minister, Baroness Ashton - which really makes him the EU equivalent of Bill Clinton, husband of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Debra Bell, the editor's secretary in the early 1980s, now regularly appears on TV screens as the organiser of Talking About Cannabis, a group which campaigns against the drug and supports families affected by it.

It has often struck me as odd that broadcasters should produce more fiction books than non-fiction, though on reflection perhaps it is perfectly logical.

A book in every person

And at least six Newsnight staff have written novels.

Trevor Barnes (producer early 80s) wrote several thrillers, including one involving a grisly murder set in what is quite obviously the old Newsnight sixth floor viewing room.

Wasting Time, a novel by Sarah Harris, is about a late night news and current affairs programme called FastNews, which she admits was based on her experiences as a Newsnight producer in the mid-90s.

Martin Sixsmith never really worked full-time for the programme, but his political thriller Spin (2005) includes a female Newsnight editor called Shayna Kelvin. Funny that. Of Newsnight's 12 editors since 1980, only one has been a woman, Sian Kevill (editor 1998-2002).

Gavin Esler and Mark Urban, both on the programme since the mid-80s, have written a few novels, but trumping all of these writers in sales, many times over, is Robert Harris (reporter early 80s), author of Enigma, The Ghost, Lustrum and other books.

Most personally embarrassing, the former Newsnight Review presenter Mark Lawson (2000-05) published a novel called Idlewild (1995) which includes a John F Kennedy conspiracy anorak called Michael Crick.

Lawson never mentioned this to me, and it was a good 12 years before I was alerted by a friend.

This perhaps shows how few copies Lawson sold, or merely the kind of friends I have.

A special programme to mark Newsnight's 30th anniversary will be broadcast on Saturday 23 January 2010 at 8pm on BBC Two.

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