Old Elizabethan former BBC and Sky journalist loses battle with cancer

Old Elizabethan former BBC and Sky journalist loses battle with cancer

National broadcast journalist Michael Sullivan, who was a pupil at QE during the late 1940s and early 1950s, has died from a brain tumour, aged 76.

Michael John Ralph Maynard Sullivan, who was renowned for the economy and accuracy of his reporting, was born in Clapham, London, on 15th March 1937. His father was an HM Inspector of schools and a bibliographer of the works of G K Chesterton.

Michael left QE in 1953 at 16 to take a diploma in journalism at Regent Street Polytechnic. From there he took up an apprenticeship in 1956 on the Stretford and Urmston Advertiser in Manchester. Following his National Service he joined the Hertfordshire Advertiser, then the Press Association. He became known for his impeccable shorthand and as a fast and efficient news reporter.

‘Sully’, as he was known, became part of a wave of Fleet Street journalists hired by the BBC in the mid-1960s to sharpen its news reporting. His good looks made him a natural in front of the camera and he swiftly became a master of writing to pictures. He covered many of the leading events of his day including the Rhodesian crisis; the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the death throes of the apartheid system in South Africa. Michael was handpicked to be one of the correspondents who covered the release from detention of Nelson Mandela in 1990.

Michael was well known too for his independence of mind and he often clashed with those in authority. His criticism of BBC management, due to his belief that he was being overlooked for top reporting jobs, sadly became something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. He famously penned a sketch of the then Chief Executive of Television News, Tony Hall, in school cap and shorts with a satchel – a caricature which led to Mr Hall being dubbed “head prefect”.

In his spare time, he pursued an interest in aviation, building a model aeroplane in the basement of Television and, later, assembling a real one and obtaining a pilot’s licence.

After retiring from the BBC in 1993, he was persuaded to join the newly-launched Sky News. His skill at turning round breaking news stories, speedily and accurately, soon led to his establishment as senior scriptwriter.

Michael, who died on 28 May 2013, is survived by his partner, Janneke Mattson, and two sons from an earlier marriage.