ONE of the North East's most eminent journalists has died after a long illness.

Tony Baker, who until recently lived in Great Whittington, has died aged 76.

Ever present on BBC screens for almost 30 years, his communication skills, empathy and understanding of ‘the story’, meant Tony was comfortable in the presence of a huge spectrum of people, from prime ministers and parliamentarians to pitmen on the picket line.

A journalist from his teens, he began work at the Northampton Chronicle & Echo, where he attended the local grammar school. He went on to work for the Coventry Evening Telegraph from their district office in Rugby.

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His broadcasting career began at BBC Radio Leicester, and in 1973 he secured an on-screen role at Border Television, in Carlisle.

Wherever Tony worked he proved hugely popular among his colleagues and viewers and built an extensive network of contacts. 

Whilst at Border Television, Tony wrote a version of the pantomime Dick Whittington and impressed all when he persuaded broadcasters Jimmy Young and Gordon Honeycomb to record comic routines for inclusion.

In 1979 Tony headed to the North East to join BBC Television. The fact that he was colour-blind meant that he relied on his daughter Kathryn to pick his ties for the broadcast later that day, to avoid terrible colour clashes.

As BBC Political Correspondent Baker was a regular on Look North and The Politics Show. He also presented network programmes such as BBC Breakfast, BBC Business, BBC World Service, Nationwide and File on 4.

On leaving the BBC in 2004, Baker continued to tell other people's stories, as a film-maker.

His love of travel, and epic adventure, saw him pursue projects in far-flung places including the high Arctic, China, the Sahara Desert and the USA, continuing to make friends wherever he went.

His ability and drive to communicate stories never deserted him, and despite his recent ill-health, he was scoping a new television screenplay on the life and times of England cricketer Basil D'Oliveira.

Friends say he faced recent adversity with enormous courage and grace. Tony remained a true gentleman to the end.

Tony leaves three adored children, Kathryn, Rosie and Charlie and five wonderful grandchildren, Maisie, Oliver, Jack, Joe and Eliot.