Secrets & Lies: UTV Political Editor Ken Reid
UTV Political Editor Ken Reid (50) is married to Liz. The couple live in rural Co Antrim and have three children, Gareth (23), Sarah (21) and Sophie (17). He reveals all to Gail Walker
Published 20/08/2005 | 00:00
WHAT ARE YOU LIKE IN A RELATIONSHIP? ARE YOU A GIVER OR A TAKER?
WHAT I will say here is that I have been married for 26 years so I suppose that must make me a bit of both. I always think people change as time goes by. Perhaps when I was younger I was more of a taker but I'd like to think that now, in later life, I'm more of a giver. Would my wife concur with that? I've no idea. But, as I say, we've been married for quite a long time. We met at my cousin's wedding.
ONLY CHILD OR ONE OF A CROWD?
THIS is where it gets interesting ... My father was killed in an air crash when I was less than two years of age. My mother remarried over a decade later and then had my half-sister. Obviously, however, that meant that for the early part of my childhood I was to all intents and purposes an only child.
But I'd no problems at all adapting when my sister came along. In fact, although she's considerably younger than me, we're very close and always have been. She's a teacher and, yes, she did teach me how to pronouce 'unprecedented.' (One of Ken's most infamous on-screen moments came the day after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, when he was reporting on the impact of the tragedy in Washington. On live TV he repeatedly stumbled over the word 'unprecedented.') The thing is, I can pronounce 'unprecedented', but it was just one of those occasions when there seems to be a little gremlin in your head saying: "No, you can't say that." In the end, I just gave up and went: "Washington has never seen anything like it."
ARE YOU CLOSER TO YOUR MUM OR DAD?
MY mum is now dead too. She died seven years ago. But undoubtedly one of the consequences of not having a father was that mum and I had a very, very powerful relationship. If you are close to a parent, when they die part of you dies too.
Being an only child for so long meant I was probably rather protected. I also became very close to both sets of grandparents. But when mum remarried I went on to have a very healthy and happy relationship with my stepfather.
Losing dad so young in life wasn't easy, especially given the unusual circumstances of his death. He was a merchant seaman and was on his way back from the Far East in March 1956. He was flying from Amsterdam to Manchester, but when the aircraft landed it overshot the runway.
I've found out quite a lot about my dad. When I was younger I trawled newspapers for details of the accident and I have also seen all the papers relating to it.
Dad worked with the Blue Funnel Line, which explains my allegiance to Everton football club.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
MY children. It's nothing specific that they have done or achieved, but rather the fact that I just think they are pretty good people.
I'm also proud of my wife, who reinvented her career and has been very successful.
And I'm also proud of some of my journalism. From no age I wanted to be a journalist, right from my schooldays at Methody in Belfast.
From there, I went to Hull University where I became very involved with the university magazine. There, I also met some people who had a big influence on me, such as Sophie Robinson - a sister of the singer Tom Robinson - who went on to have a very senior job at the BBC. Frank Kane, who became business editor of The Observer, was another one.
My first job was on the News Letter, where I worked from 1977-84. After that I was made sports editor of the former Sunday News, then from 1985-87, I was editor of that paper. After that I moved to the Cork Examiner where I stayed until 1994, when I came to UTV.
I'd a great time in Cork but we decided to move back to Northern Ireland for several reasons: it felt a bit far from home, we thought the education system here might be better and, of course, there was a great story happening with the Agreement.
For me it meant moving from newspapers to TV but it I think that reinvigorated me. I love newspapers but I also enjoy the immediacy of TV: you do a broadcast and then it's straight onto the next thing. There's a great deal of excitement attached to it.
Favourite stories? Possibly the Agreement since I had a fair old number of scoops attached to it.
People might raise their eyebrows when I say this, but I quite like most of our politicians.
I mean, I don't know why anyone actually wants to become a politician because it's not an easy job. If you're in the frontline there's a tremendous amount of pressure. Most are very hardworking, but some have an ego that does tend to go with the position. Sometimes they frustrate me or anger me but, overall, I think there's a fair degree of decency in most of them. Mind you, I still don't think I would have them round to my house for a drink on a Saturday night.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST ASHAMED OF?
THERE are things that I wish I had done differently but there is nothing in particular that is staring out at me. We all make the occasional mistake along the way, but I'm a great one for moving on.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO A LAPDANCING CLUB?
NO, but I have been at some pretty rough rugby club dos. But, no, I've no particular desire to go to a lapdancing club.
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO A FORTUNE-TELLER?
NO, I've absolutely no interest in that. I've made 50 without seeing one so why start now?
HAVE YOU ANY PHOBIAS?
I'VE always had a fear of heights but I think I cured myself of that last year when my wife and I did the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb. We were in Australia on a special trip to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. They breathalyse you before the climb but it wasn't that physically demanding - it was just a big height. The whole thing took about three hours but I was determined to do it and I coped OK with it. I'm also not fussed on creepy crawlies. If there's someone who doesn't want to fly it should be me, having lost my father in an aircrash, but ironically I love flying. I've done hundreds of flights due to my job; most weeks I'm back and forth to London. I love that - London is at the centre of things.
One of my friends has a real fear of flying but he's determined to crack it. I'm going to help him do that by enlisting on a 'fear of flying' course with him.
DO YOU TIP IN RESTAURANTS?
GENERALLY, yes, though I wouldn't tip if I wasn't pleased with the service. People in Nothern Ireland do not complain about service enough. Overall, however, I think restaurants here have improved considerably in the last few years, though some still leave a lot to be desired. You do go into some and wonder: "What on earth is going on here?"
The staff can be very off-hand and they don't even seem pleased to see you. Or all they have to offer you is what chefs call 'ping' food, as in they've just bunged something into the microwave.
Two of my favourite places to eat are The Grouse in Ballymena and Nick's Warehouse in Belfast.
For my 50th birthday my wife took me to Gordon Ramsay's restaurant at Claridges in London. It was absolutely brilliant. Afterwards we were given a tour of the kitchens. It was run like a military operation, yet also friendly and relaxed.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOD?
VERY much so. As a child I always remember Sir Jimmy Saville coming out with this remark that the chances are there is a God, and I agree, that on the law of averages that's true. Like everyone, I've had my doubts along the way, but I do believe. I'm also a churchgoer, perhaps not as often as I should, but I go.
QUICK DEATH OR TIME TO PREPARE?
I REALLY don't know on this one. You'd certainly like to be able to say your goodbyes to the people that matter - but do you really want to be in pain or go through a lot of suffering? My answer probably lies somewhere in between.
My dad died young and it was so sudden there was probably not even time for any fear.
I always think that old Ulster saying 'You never know the minute' is worth considering. It's probably a good idea to live with that in mind.
REGRETS ... HAVE YOU HAD A FEW?
YES, of course. There have been times in my career when I felt I should have made a move but did not, but it's always worked out in the end. I regret not trying things out full-time in London when I was younger but all in all I'm very happy with where I am. In anyone's career there are good and bad times. On a personal level, the death of a parent, if you are close to them, is very hard.
But my attitude as I've got older is that tomorrow is another day. The best thing is to maintain your energy levels and be up for whatever you're doing. There's no point doing it unless you enjoy it.