Roger Johnson - North West Tonight host is TV’s Mr Nice
PUBLISHED: 00:00 07 December 2015 | UPDATED: 19:24 14 August 2018
It’s not the big stories that make the greatest impression on BBC presenter Roger Johnson, as Janet Reeder discovers
Could Roger Johnson be the nicest man on the telly?
I meet the handsome ‘anchor’ presenter of North West Tonight at Tatton Park, a favourite haunt of his and just a short drive from his Hale Barns home and discover that he has the ability to disarm even the most irate viewer.
Roger, who is also a presenter on BBC Breakfast was approached by a lady in the local supermarket who said: ‘Hello. I owe you an apology. You don’t know me. I once sent you a rather abrupt email but you replied to me so elegantly and eloquently. I want to apologise.’
Says Roger: ‘I make a point of always replying to people, if possible, when they get in touch, whether their comments are either positive or negative. Often a few words of explanation can help placate people if they are unhappy.’
From David Beckham to David Cameron; Edwina Currie to Ken Dodd, he’s had the chance to interview the rich, powerful and the famous during his career with the BBC but he says the interviewees who often leave the biggest impression aren’t the famous ones. It’s the ordinary people whose extraordinary experiences bring them onto TV.
‘One of the annual highlights of my job is Children in Need appeal night. I’ve hosted the regional coverage here every year since 2011 and before that in my previous job at BBC South for more than a decade. It’s humbling to chat to the people who benefit from the money people give so generously every year. And it’s also wonderful to meet the fundraisers who do such amazing and creative things.’
His work also put him in contact with Sue and Dave Hayward, a couple of hoteliers from Blackpool who had set up an orphanage in Africa called The Happy House
‘My mum died in 2007 and I always said I was going to sponsor a child in Africa but I didn’t get around to it I’m ashamed to say,’ he reveals.
‘They came in, Sue Hayward and her husband Dave, and they were sitting on the sofa and were talking about how people sponsor the children. There were remarkable stories. A baby was found in a plastic bag on one of the rubbish dumps in Kenya and someone heard her crying and took her to The Happy House. Afterwards I told them that I’d always said I was going to do this but never had, so we started sponsoring a child at The Happy House. But we did it as a family because I think it‘s important for my children to realise how lucky they are.’
Brought up just over the border from Cheshire in Staffordshire, Roger did American studies at Birmingham University and had a stint in PR before he got a job on BBC Radio as a sports reporter. It was at university that he met his wife, Lucy.
‘We were actually at school together but we didn’t really know each other then,’ he explains.
‘ We were in the same hall of residence and were friends really.’
His first broadcasting job was in Southampton and this was followed by two years on Radio Manchester before he returned south for a job in TV.
‘The highlight was Ellen MacArthur’s round the world sailing exploits. We picked up on her before she became nationally renowned, when she was just a young girl and when she started off around the world nobody had heard of her.
‘But then her story started to gather momentum, which was remarkable to see and when she came back three months later we were waiting for her on the dockside along with the world’s press.
‘There was me and a guy from the East Midlands which was where she was from, in Derbyshire, and we were almost trembling. She said, “It’s OK. I’m still the person I was.” And she still is today. She is the most humble and remarkable young woman.’
With work in the evenings and at the weekend when he has to get up at the ridiculously early hour of 3.30am, not to mention looking after three young boys, Roger admits that he doesn’t have an awful lot of time for a social life.
‘We eat at Dee Thai in Hale and we like Earle too - but we used to go out a lot more before we had the boys,’ he admits.
‘We come to Tatton Park a lot and we’re often here with friends and take a walk around the lake -although we have to bribe the boys with sweets at the end to get them to come along!
‘We grew up just a stone’s throw away from the Cheshire border and I played cricket for a team in the North Staffordshire Cheshire league. When we moved back there was only one place we were going to move to and that was here.’
You can follow Roger on twitter at @RogerJ_01