Charles Wheeler, a personal reflection
As a boy, I watched Charles Wheeler night after night covering the Watergate crisis in Washington.
He had gained my father's seal of approval - which put him in a pretty rare club as far as our household was concerned - and each night we would gather around the TV to hear Charles's latest take on the scandal that was engulfing President Richard Nixon. His words were delivered with clarity, gravity, and with beautiful precision.
In one of life's unexpected bonuses, our paths crossed years later at Newsnight. As a young assistant producer on the programme, I was too much in awe of him to initiate a conversation, and it had to wait years, until I came back as a reporter myself, for me to get to know him.
He wore a Combined Operations tie and this provided an opening for one conversation, in which he told me about his wartime service in the commandos. Charles, with his fluent German, had gravitated to intelligence work after the war, serving in Berlin at a time when it was the global epicentre of spying and double dealing.
Charles's experiences during the war (and indeed growing up in Germany in the 1930s) formed his very distinctive journalistic personality. He rejected cant, loathed injustice, and was completely intrepid. His attitude to officialdom was not one of childish scorn or contempt, but at the same time it was completely impossible for any interviewee to intimidate or over-awe him.
As Newsnight reporters, we rarely worked together side by side in the field, but one moment came in 1991 following the failure of the coup against Mikhail Gorbachev. Our respective producers were so keen to out-do one another that there was a danger of fierce rivalry building up between teams.
Charles and I could feel the tension, so we simply resolved to meet up each evening and tell one another everything we were up to, without our producers' knowledge. As well as being a great idealist in his reporting, he could be a great pragmatist too.
Every person is formed to a large extent by their times or experiences. But it is precisely the extraordinary trajectory of Charles's life - from Nazi Germany, to the Second World War or America's crises of the 1960s and 1970s - that will make him quite irreplaceable.