My Mentor: Dan Snow on Peter Snow

Written by Rachel on June 1st, 2009

From here:

‘I don’t think there are many people who can explain a complicated idea better than dad’

Interview by Sophie Morris

Monday, 18 February 2008
Dan Snow
People say to me: “Oh, it’s really unfair. Your dad got you into television.” Yes, he did. But not by ringing up (former BBC2 controller) Jane Root and saying he wanted to do a programme with his son; he would have been laughed at.

From the time I was three years old until I was an adult he was presenting Newsnight all week and coming home at 1am, broken. Yet on Saturdays he was out of bed at 7am, driving me to Hastings, telling me about the battle on the way. He must have wanted to watch football or rugby or lie on the sofa, but instead he gave me a love of history and taught me about characters and how to look out for them, and how to tell stories. That’s where the real mentoring came in

My mother was a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation correspondent and Jon (Snow, Peter’s cousin) was on telly too, but my rebellion was not wanting to work in television. When someone in BBC development asked if I wanted to do a programme with my dad, he initially thought it was a really bad idea.

The idea then came up of doing the 60th anniversary of the battle of El Alamein in 2002. Going to Egypt together and doing a military history programme sounded amazing. I spent the whole summer telling him what we should be saying, which looking back is ridiculous, but that’s the arrogance of youth.

The key thing was just to watch, and I was watching someone who is one of the best communicators in television. I don’t think there are many people who can break down and explain a complicated idea better than my dad.

He genuinely wanted me to get a proper job, but other stuff was commissioned off the back of the programme. Although people say I’m following in my dad’s footsteps I’m not really because dad was a staff journalist with a desk and a pension. The idea of being a freelance to him is quite unusual.

Dan Snow is a historian and broadcaster and presents a slot on BBC1’s The One Show.

Peter Snow presented Newsnight for 18 years, the BBC’s election coverage and Tomorrow’s World.


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