Ian Payne: Staying at the sharp end of TV

HE’S used to sharing the limelight with co-host Pam Royle, but TV presenter Ian Payne has many more strings to his bow.

Ian Payne

HE’S used to sharing the limelight with co-host Pam Royle, but TV presenter Ian Payne has many more strings to his bow.

For starters, it’s a little known fact that the 42-year-old once held the coveted title of East of England regional trampoline champion. What’s more, his first TV appearance wasn’t as a young news hound, but as a young contestant on Blockbusters.

His exemplary trampolining skills were in fact what catapulted him into the successful media career we see today. Hailing from Ipswich, Ian came to the region to study a sports science degree at the former Newcastle Polytechnic.

Ian, who has two sons, Matt, 17, and Joe, 13, said: “I never wanted to work in an office. I loved sport and wanted to be a PE teacher. I’d never been to Newcastle before and I soon found myself 300 miles from home in Ipswich. Newcastle Poly had a really good reputation and I was very lucky to get on to a sports degree course on the basis of my trampolining.”

As British student trampolining champion, Ian was on the fringe of the national squad until the opportunity of a TV placement at TV Sport and Leisure (TSL) in London changed his fate.

“I got a placement working at TSL in London. It was 1988 and the year of the Olympics in Seoul and the first year that Channel 4 covered the Tour de France. I got the opportunity to work on the Olympics coverage from Korea and also on the Tour de France. I was hooked and wanted to work in TV and sport from then on in.”

With a new thirst for the media, Ian joined ITV Tyne Tees in 1992 as a trainee in the sports department. Over the next 10 years he progressed up the career ladder from sports assistant to senior sports presenter.

Ian said: “Roger Tames mentored me and gave me some great reporting chances. I had some fantastic opportunities and was really lucky. Also at the time, all three football clubs in the area got their act together. I wouldn’t like to look back at some of my early takes.”

His big break came in 2006, when he was promoted to a newscaster on the now defunct south edition of North East Tonight.

“There were two programmes at the time. One which aired in the north of the region and one in the south. Pam and I presented the one in the south, and 18 months ago they decided to merge three programmes into one. Pam and I took over the helm.”

Pam and Ian have a unique chemistry that is fundamental to any successful double act.

“Pam worked at Tyne Tees all the time I did and I knew her as a colleague. I never imagined we would end up co-hosting together. It’s been great. She has had so many different co-presenters and I’m now her longest partnership. We both really get on well and enhance each other.

“I’m inclined to plug a few shots and take a chance. I’m probably a bit less formal and even a bit irreverent when it’s appropriate. Pam keeps me in check!”

The transition from sports to news was a challenge admits Ian.

“The challenge for me was how I handled the serious stuff. It’s a huge privilege to be invited into someone’s living room to deliver news about their region. I aim to tell the news in a way that people understand it and appreciate it. When we break any story, we talk about how it affects our viewers. We don’t just give out the information. We try to put ourselves in their shoes. I hope that the warmth that Pam and I bring to the programme sets us apart. Pam has a fantastic way of engaging with the audience.”

Working on live TV is one of the best aspects of the job, according to Ian.

“I never wanted to work in a 9-5 job. I wanted to do something unpredictable. You know there’s going to be a 30-minute programme with light and shade, but quite what twists and turns, you never know. That’s the excitement. There’s something about the adrenalin and the immediacy of live TV that I love. So what if you make a mistake. It makes it real.”

Despite his role in news Ian didn’t want to leave sport behind.

“I still get to cover some of the main sporting events which is great. As well as reporting on the Ashes in Australia, I covered the Beijing Paralympics in 2008 which fulfilled a life-long ambition.”

Producing and presenting Bobby Robson’s memorial service from Durham Cathedral was a particularly poignant event in Ian’s career.

“The biggest test for me was producing and presenting Bobby Robson’s memorial service. Coming from Ipswich and living in Newcastle I was very close to him both personally and professionally.

“If there was ever a programme I wanted to get right, that was it. It was about doing the right thing for Bobby’s family. It was a huge privilege and I’m extremely proud that it won programme of the year.”

Despite not having a journalism qualification to his name, Ian has won a number of accolades for his work. In 2008 Ian was honoured by Northumbria University for Distinguished Services to Sport and in 2009 he was named Best Presenter by the Royal Television Society North East and Cumbria.

A strong supporter of Disability Sport, Ian is a regional ambassador for the English Federation of Disability Sport, and a patron of Percy Hedley School.

He is currently a guest lecturer in media studies at Northumbria University, and recently launched an exciting new technology company with business partner Simon Glass.

“The industry has changed so much in the past 20 years. I like to edit my interviews myself which is rare for a presenter to do. The bit that drives me is staying at the sharp end of the industry technically.”

With all that going on, it’s surprising Ian has any time for a social life. But in fact he’s happier than ever and in a blossoming relationship with 40-year-old PR executive Catherine Harland.

Despite Newcastle being his adopted city, Ian is still an Ipswich supporter at heart.

And it seems his boys are following in his footsteps. Joe plays football for a Heaton team, while his eldest son Matt is currently applying for a course in broadcasting journalism.

Of all his passions, the North East is a place he holds close to his heart and is more than happy to call home.

Ian said: “People from the North East have a huge amount of pride in where they come from. They really want you to be on their side

“The whole Passionate People, Passionate Places slogan is true and didn’t come about by accident. My boys are Geordies and I can’t see myself ever living anywhere else.”

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