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20 years on

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Robin Lustig | 15:16 UK time, Friday, 24 April 2009

I was going to keep quiet about this - but now that Jon Snow has admitted that today he's notching up 20 years in the Channel 4 News hot seat, I may as well confess: this month also marked my 20th anniversary at The World Tonight.

I find it hard to believe, if only because I still often feel that I'm only now beginning to get the hang of it. I clearly remember my first day, walking up Regent Street from Oxford Circus Tube station (will we ever return to the bright lights of the West End from our current White City desert?) and suddenly I was rooted to the spot. I had never presented a live radio programme in my life - and I was about to make my debut on Radio 4. Terrified doesn't begin to describe my emotions.

Those were the days when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, half of Europe was behind the Iron Curtain, and we used tape recorders with giant spools of magnetic tape. We had no internet, no mobile phones, no Google and no Wikipedia. If we wanted some background information, we phoned the BBC News Information library (Newsinf to its devotees) and waited patiently for a messenger to deliver a bulging envelope stuffed with photocopied press cuttings.

I couldn't have chosen a better time to start on a programme that then as now paid special attention to news from overseas. Within months, central and eastern Europe emerged from decades of Communist rule, and by November, the Berlin Wall was coming down. The following year, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and soon I was part of an ambitious experiment known as Scud FM, officially Radio 4 News FM, devoted only to news of the war from the Gulf.

Next year, The World Tonight will celebrate its 40th birthday, which means that I'll have been presenting it for more than half of its life. If my editors will let me - and if you don't mind - I'd still like to carry on just a bit longer. As I say, I think I'm beginning to get the hang of it.


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