The assistant news editor was Terry Dodson, he came from the Daily Express. He took over from David Plowright as news editor in 1960. It was him who was on duty the night Kennedy was assassinated. He was the first person who heard from the Press Association in London and passed it onto Barry Heads who was producing Scene at 6.30. Mike Scott was presenting the programme, and he was the first in the country to break the news of the assassination. There’s been a lot of arguments in the past since then, which television channel was first, but it’s well established that it was Granada. If you do any sort of research on Google and what have you, you find out that, unfortunately for the BBC, the hierarchy were out at some dinner function or other. There wasn’t anybody around to give permission to break into things. It was definitely Granada that was first.
Terry left Granada at the end of 1963 and he went on to produce Pebble Mill at One for the BBC. He was replaced as news editor by Bob Greaves. The third member of the team was Donald Kerr or Carr, he was the only member of the group who had been to university. I’m not sure whether he graduated, but he went for a time to Ruskin College, the trades union college at Oxford which would have probably pleased Mr Bernstein. I think he left in 1960-61 and I think he went to the BBC. He was replaced by Mike Hill.
Looking back, I felt I was very much a member of the team. I was involved with everything that went on during the day and it was quite an exhilarating experience, working with people who’d had a grammar school education, though like myself had not gone to university, I think it helped to boost my self-confidence. You were asking about the presenters?
The main presenters were Brian Trueman and Peter Wheeler, he was voiceover for University Challenge.
Yes. I’ve got a picture of him in my mind. Yes.
They would often be sent out as reporters. They would read the news, but we often used them as reporters to go out. I think Brian Trueman, I’ve read his piece about going out with the freelance cameraman that we retained called Steve Stevens. His description is perfect of him. They were all young men, the journalists and the presenters, they were all young men of 30 I think, or maybe at just a few years younger. They all chatted together about their social lives and lives in general. I remember that one of them had reached the grand old age of 30 and there was much discussion about 30 being a milestone or a watershed moment in a person’s career. They felt that if they hadn’t made some headway in their career by then that they weren’t… I think they were a bit frightened that they wouldn’t be successful.
I was a young girl of 20 and they probably considered that I was just a young kid. It was a bit like being a fly on the wall. Terry Dodson thought of himself as quite the young man about town, and we all secretly laughed when he met his future wife, I think it was Elaine or Eileen. She was Oldham carnival queen and she had three heavyweight brothers and so he’d certainly met his match there. They were married and they went on to have a long and happy marriage. They had five daughters. Brian Trueman, I think was already engaged and was married one or two years later. I remember Peter Wheeler chatting about the house he and his wife were planning to buy. We all seemed to be very shocked that he was willing to pay the high price of £4,000 for the house he wanted to buy in Cheshire. Seems ridiculous now, it’s probably worth £400,000 now. It was funny looking back it seemed a tremendous amount of money.
The relationship between the news journalists and the news readers, I mean their on-screen reporters, could sometimes be a little fraught. I think you have to remember that the editor and his team were responsible for all that went out on the programme. He and his staff understandably didn’t take kindly to suggestions that the newscaster could do some of the work of the journalists just as well or even better. Sometimes the newsroom was sent one or two actors or presenters on a temporary basis to actually see how they would perform. And sometimes the newsroom team tended to think that these people, well what can I say, they were a bit lightweight and not serious enough. I remember the two temporary newsreaders who were thought of in this way were Bob Holness and Gay Byrne. So, considering what became of them, especially Gay Byrne. It’s amusing to think just how wrong they were.