Legendary News At Ten anchor Alastair Burnett dies at 84
VETERAN newsreader and journalist Alastair Burnet, known to many for his years fronting News At Ten, has died at the age of 84.
The presenter, who last hosted the nightly ITN bulletin almost 21 years ago, died following a series of strokes.
Sir Alastair was also a trusted face and voice for national occasions, anchoring several general elections and the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales.
The broadcaster Andrew Neil called him "one of the greatest journalists of his generation".
A statement on behalf of Sir Alastair's family said: "He passed away peacefully in the middle of the night at the Beatrice Place Nursing Home in Kensington, where he was being cared for after suffering several strokes."
Sir Alastair also had a distinguished career as a print journalist, editing publications such as The Economist and The Daily Express.
Although remembered for his ITV work during the early and later stages of his career, he spent a short period at the BBC working on Panorama and fronted the two general election programmes of 1974.
As well as his many election broadcasts for ITV as a reporter and presenter, he also led ITN's coverage of the Apollo 11 Moon landing in 1969.
Mr Neil said: "Alastair was one of the greatest journalists of his generation, as much at home in print as TV news and current affairs, where he was a legendary figure as Britain's premier newscaster and anchorman.
"He played a pivotal role in the rise of ITN as Political Editor, interviewer and newscaster; he launched ITN's News At Ten, Britain's first dual-anchored, half-hour newscast - the most successful newscast in British broadcast history; and he will always be remembered for presenting historic live events, from numerous election nights - on BBC and ITV - to US space launches to major royal events.
"He will also always be recalled by family, friends and colleagues for his unparalleled professionalism, humour and gentlemanly kindness, especially to journalists starting out on their careers.
"Joy it was to be in his company and he was an inspiration to many who followed in his footsteps - the broadcasters' broadcaster.
"There will be many who wish to pay tribute to him in the days ahead."
Sir Alastair will have a private funeral but a memorial service will also be organised at a later date.
The Sheffield-born presenter, who studied at Oxford, also became known for the documentaries he fronted about members of the Royal Family, particularly the Prince and Princess of Wales.
However, the sympathetic portrayals led to Sir Alastair being featured in the ITV's satirical puppet show Spitting Image as a gushing, obsequious royalist. The magazine Private Eye lampooned him in a similar fashion.
But he had an unswerving ability to capture a moment in words, demonstrated during his coverage of the Moon landing when he told viewers: "There it is, the old Moon - the one the cow jumped over, the one the poets wrote about, the one that lovers made love to. And from now on, it's going to be rather a different one."
John Hardie, chief executive of ITN, paid tribute this morning and said his legacy lived on.
"ITN stands on the shoulders of giants, none greater than Sir Alastair Burnet. He defined newscasting for a generation and his influence is still clearly evident today," he said.
"He set the bar to a standard that has never been surpassed and perhaps not even equalled. Sir Alastair will be sorely missed by many here at ITN, but his legacy lives on."