Cathy Newman has said she was “fighting to hold it together” while reporting on the death of a 13-year-old whose family were not allowed to be with him in hospital, describing it as “the darkest moment of the pandemic” for her.
The Channel 4 News presenter said she took comfort in cycling during the early days of the pandemic and it became “a vital form of release”.
She told Women’s Health: “An old news editor once said to me, ‘The moment you stop feeling moved by a story, you stop being a journalist.’
“That really hit home for me one evening in March. I had to tell viewers about the death of 13-year-old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, whose family weren’t allowed to be with him in the hospital – which happened to be my local one.
“A picture of his coffin being lowered into the ground by people in hazmat suits flashed up on the screen while I was rehearsing the headlines, and I felt myself welling up.
“The whole programme, I was fighting to hold it together – I think you could see it on my face… that was the darkest moment of the pandemic for me.”
Newman said she swapped the London Underground for her bicycle early on in the pandemic over her concerns about the virus.
She said: “It was late February, and coronavirus was rising fast up the news agenda when I found myself packed like a sardine on the Tube on my morning commute to the Channel 4 studio.
“I was already wearing a mask because I have asthma – plus, I could see which way this story was going.
“But that day I thought: ‘If anyone on this train has Covid-19, I will definitely get it.’
“I started cycling seven miles to and from work soon after. And what began as a necessity became a vital form of release.”
BBC Breakfast host Louise Minchin also recalled how she managed to stay calm while reporting on the virus on live TV, saying: “There’s a memory I call to mind when I need to slow down.
“I was doing a triathlon around the Liverpool docks, and the atmosphere was stressful.
“But when I looked down at the view below, it was so calm and peaceful. It was a moment of real serenity.
“Now, whenever I feel nervous about a breaking news story, I close my eyes and think of that moment.
“That’s where my mind went when I heard the news, through a headset, that the Prime Minister had been hospitalised with Covid-19.”
The full Louise Minchin and Cathy Newman interviews are in the December/January issue of Women’s Health, on sale now.