Obituary: Steve Hewlett, journalist who documented his battle with cancer

Steve Hewlett. Picture: Nick Cunard/REX/Shutterstock
Steve Hewlett. Picture: Nick Cunard/REX/Shutterstock
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Steve Hewlett’s instinct for a story established him first as a journalist and media commentator and then as the narrator of his own journey through terminal illness.

While he was best known to the public for his TV appearances and presence on the radio, he had a long career behind the scenes as an award-winning editor and respected producer.

He was the editor of the BBC’s Panorama when Diana, Princess of Wales, gave her famous interview to Martin Bashir in 1995, which was watched by 23 million people.

He has also worked as director of programmes at Carlton TV, now Channel 4, and produced high-profile programmes including Diverse Reports, Second World War in Colour and an award-winning 1991 BBC documentary from the Maze prison.

Born in Birmingham in 1958, he was adopted from a children’s home as a baby by parents Larry and Vera and once told The Observer that he “did luck out there”.

He also listed a string of lucky events that shaped his career, starting with his first work in TV, when he was hired by Panorama as a freelancer in Manchester to track down two men involved with a crime.

His luck almost ran out in the mid-1980s when his BBC contract was terminated after his radical politics as a student came to light.

In 1985, his evidence to Observer journalists David Leigh and Paul Lashmar helped reveal the processes by which MI5 once vetted corporation staff.

Afterwards he turned down a contract at the BBC and took a production role on The Friday Alternative and Brass Tacks, before joining Carlton and then returning to the BBC.

He became host of Radio 4’s The Media Show in 2008, where he took a brisk approach to interviewing media executives, and later recorded a series of candid radio interviews with Eddie Mair, the presenter of Radio 4’s PM, about his cancer diagnosis, and wrote a diary of his experiences for the Guardian.

He told Mair: “I’m a journalist and a storyteller and I regard my condition as a bit of a story.”

He added: “I don’t feel my life has been snatched away from me. I don’t know if that is odd or unusual or just me.

“I feel I’ve had a pretty good run of it. I don’t want less, I want more. I do want to see what happens with my kids. I do want to see the next stages in their lives and it’s quite upsetting when you stop to think about it, but am I weighed down by the thought? I don’t feel that I am.”

Hewlett married his partner Rachel in hospital this month after being told he may only havehad weeks to live and his treatment for cancer of the oesophagus could not continue.

The wedding was attended by his former partner Carol and his sons Freddie, Billie and Bertie.

LAURA HARDING