Former ITN newsreader Carol Barnes has died aged 63 following a stroke. As a TV newscaster for almost 30 years, she was one of the best known faces on British television. A consummate journalist, she later admitted that she had never managed to successfully balance the demands of her career and her commitments to her family.
Carol Lesley Barnes was born on 13 September 1944 into a middle-class family in Norwich, but grew up in south London. After attending St Martin-in-the Fields School for Girls at Tulse Hill, she left at 16 to train as a fashion buyer with Harrods on the princely sum of £4 per week.
She said later that she had hated school. “I was too confined, my mother realised I needed some freedom so I moved into a seedy flat in Earls Court.”
After a year out, she went to a local polytechnic to take her A-levels and then read English, French and Spanish at Sheffield University before gaining a Certificate in Education.
She was part of ITV’s team covering the wedding of Charles and Diana
She tried her hand at supply teaching, but quickly became disillusioned and went on to a number of jobs including a post in PR at the Royal Court Theatre and a sub-editor at Time Out magazine.
In 1973, she started a stint as a radio reporter as part of the launch team for London talk station LBC before she joined ITN in 1975.
She spent some time on the road as a reporter, including covering the 1981 Brixton riots while she was seven months pregnant.
During her career at ITN, she presented all of ITV’s main news bulletins, including News at Ten, becoming one of the organisation’s most respected broadcasters.
In 1984, she was named Newscaster of the Year at the TV and Radio Industries Club Awards.
Most memorable story
In 1989, she began a short spell as the newsreader on the ill-fated Channel 4 Daily breakfast programme, but left after less than a year and returned to ITV’s bulletins.
She gained a reputation for being unflappable, never more so than when she was called in to anchor ITN’s coverage of the death of Princess Diana.
“This was the most memorable story I ever worked on,” she later recalled. “We were on air for 16 hours.”
The Queen toured ITN’s new headquarters in 1991
In 1999, she announced that she was leaving ITN at the same time as her marriage to TV cameraman Nigel Thomson came to an end.
She signed up to present a weekly political programme for the ITV station Meridian as well as writing magazine articles as a freelance.
She rejoined ITN for the Iraq war, presenting bulletins on the new 24-hour ITV News Channel.
In 2004, her 24-year-old daughter Clare, from her long relationship with former minister Denis MacShane, was killed after her parachute malfunctioned while she was skydiving in Australia.
She found it difficult to come to terms with her loss and recalled how she “ran around the house crying, screaming and banging walls” when she heard the news.
She turned Clare’s bedroom into a shrine, with photographs and treasured mementoes placed alongside a casket containing her ashes.
A big part of me still can’t accept that she’s dead. I talk about her all the time as though she is still alive
Carol Barnes on the death of her daughter, Clare
Carol Barnes dies
Just months after the accident she was convicted of drink driving in Brighton.
The incident forced her to stand down from the bench in the city where she had sat as a magistrate.
Barnes denied it was related to her loss but admitted Clare’s death had brought on depression. “A big part of me still can’t accept that she’s dead. I talk about her all the time as though she is still alive,” she said.
In her last years, Barnes ran a media training company and wrote for magazines.
In January 2008, she presented an ITV programme about her former colleague Ed Mitchell’s descent into alcoholism.
Saturday, 8 March 2008, 16:11 GMT