'I couldn't wait to be in a news studio again' - David Whiteley on his return to telly
- Credit: supplied
David Whiteley is back. The presenter who was a BBC fixture for more than 20 years has gone over to the other side – and is delighted to be back with the local news.
The new ITV Anglia News host now joins Becky Jago in the Norwich studio every evening - while his wife Amelia Reynolds continues presenting for the BBC.
So will David and Amelia be chasing the same stories, and comparing viewing figures over breakfast?
“I don’t think we’ll be discussing work at home as much!” said David.
And two viewers neither can count on are their daughters, 11-year-old Annabel and eight-year-old Cleo. “They won’t watch either of us, they are not interested!" said David. "Years ago I was excited about being asked to present on Children in Need and Annabel said ‘Do you have to? It’s just so embarrassing!’”
You may also want to watch:
When the BBC axed its regional investigative Inside Out programmes around the country last year David found out his job was gone over a video call. Despite pleas to keep the local programming strand (“People like Stephen Fry and Lenny Henry supported us!” marvelled David) he knew it was time to look elsewhere.
And so, amid the pressures of family life in a global pandemic, (although David admits Amelia did most of the home schooling) David began job hunting for the first time in 23 years.
- 1 Air ambulance called and A47 closed after incident
- 2 Why this Norfolk village is one of the best in the UK
- 3 Major Lowestoft road partially closed due to police incident
- 4 Pedestrian suffers life-threatening injuries in A47 crash
- 5 Man airlifted to hospital with serious head injuries after fight near pub
- 6 Shed set alight, 16 broken into and pumpkins destroyed at allotments
- 7 Market traders 'devastated' over council plans to revoke licences
- 8 A47 set for two weeks of roadworks from Monday
- 9 Hamleys toy shop opens in Norwich shopping centre
- 10 'I couldn't believe my eyes' - snorkeller finds 125-year-old shipwreck
“I considered doing anything, because you do. You look at your reserves starting to dwindle,” said David who has gained a lot of fans across the east for his combination of easy-going humour, genuine interest in his audience and the story he is telling, and ability to get to the heart of heavier issues too. From surfing to climate change and child prodigies to financial scams he rides that fine line between entertainment and information with a winning grin and serious ability.
After his final shift with the BBC David decided to try creating his own documentaries, setting up a business and getting some of his ideas underway.
“Then this fabulous opportunity came along, that I had never dreamed of!” he said. “If the position had come up while I was still working for the BBC I would have applied.”
Jonathan Wills was moving back home to a similar job in Jersey, leaving a vacancy for a presenter to co-host the evening Anglia news programme alongside Becky Jago.
Although he interviews people for a living, David admitted to being extremely nervous about the interview process. “I hadn’t done a job interview for more than 20 years,” he said. “I hadn’t even worn a suit for over a year! I just about sneaked a hair cut in, in the first week it was legal.”
When it was announced that he had got the job he was overwhelmed by the public support. “I had so many messages, texts, tweets, emails. I couldn’t believe it!”
David grew up in Essex and began his career at 18 with work experience on a local commercial radio station. A year later he was presenting its news programme. In 2000 he moved on to television and BBC Look East. Within three years he was working on Inside Out, which he produced and presented for 17 years.
Away from work David loves the sea and is a keen and accomplished surfer. But it was his beloved waves which brought his scariest assignment. It was only by chance that he was in Hemsby with a camera crew, making a piece for the One Show, on the night of the December 2013 storm surge.
People across the country, and eventually around the world, watched in horror as the owners of cliff-top chalets saw their homes and possessions toppling down the cliffs towards the stormy sea.
'I was frightened that night, for myself and for everyone there. It was overwhelming,' he said.
It was a story David returned to several times, charting the way the community rallied around to help. “We weren’t just there, and then disappeared. We went back – although they would always joke, ‘Oh, Whiteley is here again, the harbinger of doom!’”
He missed the coast, and surfing, during lockdown. “I had to tell friends not to phone me about going surfing,” he said. Instead he ran, and is a familiar figure on routes close to his south Norfolk home.
“How lucky we are in Norfolk, having all this space,” he said. His absolute favourite place is Cromer. “I love Cromer because it’s where I surf and we have got a lot of friends there. I love all of the Norfolk coast, Sea Palling, Hunstanton, I’m a big, big fan of Wells. We are very lucky in Norfolk.”
His enforced break also gave him a taste for weekends off, after working six days a week, hosting Radio Norfolk’s Saturday breakfast programme and Treasure Quest as well as his television commitments.
“It’s actually really nice having weekends off,” said David. “It’s time with the kids while they still want to spend time with me!” Daughter Cleo loves acting and Annabel is a keen football player and fan. David said: “I’m over the moon that Norwich City has been promoted, I’m ecstatic, but it’s my daughter who has got me more into football.”
David’s other great love is the Star Wars films. He has made two documentaries and written a book about the British talent behind that galaxy far far away.
The 44-year-old even celebrates his birthday on May 4 (known to fans as Star Wars day from “May the Force go with you”) - because it actually is his birthday, rather than a superfan thing.
“Becky Jago has never seen one single Star Wars film,” he said. “Neither has Amelia. Two of the most significant women in my life have never seen Star Wars!”
This is not the first time he has worked with Becky. “Becky and I worked for the same commercial radio station in the mid 90s,” he said. “We have already got the rapport.” Ahead of starting at Anglia David said: “I’m most looking forward to working with the most amazing lovely people. We would always watch a little bit to see what they were up to and think how polished it was, how slick the presenters were. The production values are very high.”
“I feel like the new boy and like I’m 23 years old again.”
“I couldn’t wait to be in a news studio again. It just felt very comfortable, and exciting. I have missed working with a great team and I have missed presenting.”
And while the BBC/ITV rivalry will not disrupt family life David could not resist pointing out that he goes head-to-head with Look East co-host Stuart White. “It’s Whiteley v White!”