Carol Barnes


Born: 13 September, 1944, in Norfolk.

Died: 8 March, 2008, in Brighton, aged 63.

CAROL Barnes was a cool and adroit newscaster who delivered the news in a straight-forward and easily comprehensible manner. With her fair hair and friendly good looks she brought to the screen a sense of homeliness, understanding and, most importantly, calm authority. She avoided gimmickry and trick questioning. Barnes had a winning smile and delivered a balanced and fair account of the news and became a household name during her long time as lead presenter of the two flagship ITN news bulletins: News At Ten and News At One. She was Newscaster of the Year in 1984.

Sir Trevor McDonald, a colleague of Barnes since the mid Seventies, spoke of his "extraordinary sadness" at her death. He said: "She was one of these people who never assumed any airs and graces. She did her job with great professionalism and without any fuss. She had a great ease and naturalness with the public."

Carol Lesley Barnes was born in Norwich but was brought up in Tooting, south London. She was educated at St Martin in the Fields High School, Sheffield University and took a teaching diploma at Birmingham University. After a few years as a supply teacher, she joined, in 1973, LBC, the commercial news station for London. Three years later she joined ITN as a reporter – an early assignment was interviewing the young Diana Spencer as she went to work – and became a newscaster in 1982. Barnes had a winning charm which immediately engaged with the viewers.

At ITN she is fondly remembered as a "no-nonsense reporter who did the job getting to the facts and presenting them with total clarity". As a reporter she was intrepid. She was flown to Iraq to cover the war which she did with her customary dedication. All her news items – often filmed under dangerous conditions – were to the point and factual. When she was pregnant, Barnes was sent on two hazardous stories. One was to cover the Brixton riots of 1981 and the other to interview Ayatollah Khomeini in exile in France. When the Ayatollah returned to Tehran ITN decided to send a male reporter to cover the story. Barnes was not best pleased: despite being seven months pregnant and with a total fear of flying. It was typical of her commitment to a story. "It's my story" she told a senior ITN editor. "I want to cover it."

In 1989, Barnes was one of the launch presenters of Channel 4's Daily News but returned to News At Ten for two further periods (1991-1999 and 2003-4). She also memorably anchored the ITN coverage of Princess Diana's funeral. Her departure was as a result of a family tragedy which left her depressed. Her daughter, Clare, by the Labour MP Denis McShane, had died in a parachute jump in Australia. Barnes had never married McShane, but they had remained close and were both devoted to their daughter.

The accident, in 2004, left Barnes bereft and she descended into a clinical depression. "There were times," she admitted, "when I'd wake up and didn't want to get out of bed." Although she continued to work for local TV stations in Brighton, she found day-to-living a trial. She later received a one-year ban after a drink-driving charge and was forced to resign as a magistrate. But, ever resourceful, Barnes put together her life and wrote for magazines and addressed media study groups. She played golf with her ITN colleague Nicholas Owen. "She was a friend first and a colleague second. We would sometimes pause in a round of golf and pat each other on the back," he recalls. But then ten days ago she suffered a severe stroke and was rushed to the Royal Sussex County Hospital.

It is typical of this generous minded lady that one of the last television programmes with which she was associated was the documentary Saving Ed Mitchell which went out in January on ITV. News broke just before Christmas that her former colleague on ITN, Ed Mitchell, was sleeping rough on Brighton front. As a result of the programme, and Barnes's efforts, Mitchell is now having treatment. She was able to empathise with his problems and spoke movingly of the plight of alcoholism and loneliness on an individual and the family.

Barnes had a calm zest for the news journalism. She reported it from war zones and the studio with complete authority and was unflappable. The public responded to her evident honesty and professionalism and trusted her completely.

After her relationship with Denis McShane, Carol Barnes married Nigel Thompson, an ITV cameraman, in 1982. That marriage was dissolved in 1999 and she is survived by their son.