John MacKay: 25 years since anchorman’s presenting debut on STV

The much-loved newsreader reflects on his first STV appearance 25 years ago.

Newsreader: John MacKay celebrated 25 years at STV News last month. <strong>STV</strong>
Newsreader: John MacKay celebrated 25 years at STV News last month. STV

My pager beeped. It was the STV newsdesk number.

You only ever see pagers in hospitals now, but in the pre-mobile era that was the fastest way of contacting a reporter.

I left the court case I was covering and phoned the newsroom.

The instruction was simple: “Get yourself back. You’re doing the news tonight.”

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I had joined STV three weeks before with the expectation I might be doing some stand-in presenting further down the line. This was not much further down the line.

Soon after I found myself sitting beside the Viv Lumsden, queen of newsreaders at the time, about to present my first Scotland Today, as it was then called.

Viv was great and I noticed that she wrote the camera instructions on each script, as a large number enclosed in a sweeping circle. All these years later I still do exactly the same thing.

The programme went well, apart from the fact I clearly didn’t know where to look when Viv was reading. Scripts, camera, Viv? Anyone’s guess.

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I got away with it and came off air.

As I walked into the newsroom the editor came out of his lair. I paused my step, waiting for the praise that was surely going to come my way.

“Don’t wear that shirt and tie again.”

I wasn’t to know it then, but that’s an opinion I’ve been hearing ever since.


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