Michael Buerk

Michael Buerk - Host and Presenter - Radio and TV

In his long and distinguished career in BBC News, spanning over 30 years, it is perhaps ironic that Michael Buerk is indelibly linked with just one story.

When he and cameraman Mohammed Amin first brought the plight of millions of starving Ethiopians to British screens in 1984, he needed to say little in order to convey the desperation and suffering. 

His cool, dispassionate style was later to be praised by his BBC colleague, John Humphrys among others, as being “…a spare and powerful commentary …it left us to form our own judgement”.

 

Michael Buerk came to the BBC after an early career in newspapers, including the Daily Mail. He spent over 20 years as a foreign correspondent, and looks back on those years as among the best of his career. 

He reported from more than 50 countries, including a four-year stint in South Africa, until he was asked to leave the country by the then government because of his uncompromising reporting. 

In 1991 he was airlifted out of Addis Ababa after a munitions dump exploded, killing his Kenyan sound recordist, John Mathai, and injuring Mohammed Amin, the cameraman who had accompanied him to Ethiopia in 1984. 

By this time, he was turning his hand to presenting, and had become one of the main anchors for the BBC Nine O'Clock News. He also began presenting non-news programmes such as BBC1's 999, and on BBC Radio 4, the ethical debating programme, The Moral Maze, and interview series The Choice. 

He has crossed swords with his employers on occasion, expressing his disappointment at the decision to move the Nine O'Clock News to its present slot an hour later. He has also openly criticised the "pressure to deliver" on today's news reporters.

He announced his retirement from news presenting at the end of 2002, although he still continues to present other programmes and making one-off films. He is also in demand on the corporate circuit, facilitating conference, giving keynote speeches as well as recalling his years at the BBC.

Michael Buerk lives in Guildford with his wife, and has twin boys, who both now work as journalists, one of whom presented his first grandchild in 2006.