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Robert Atkins (1943-2007)

Bob Atkins, who, with Colin Larcombe, headed the postgraduate Diploma in Broadcast journalism in the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies for the past fifteen years, died suddenly just over a week ago. Bob had been associated with the school, and with the teaching of broadcast journalism within it, since its beginnings in 1983. In that year, Mike Ungersma, now retired, arrived to teach broadcast under the leadership of Sir Tom Hopkinson.

This week, from Germany, Mike has recollected Bob’s fervent support then, as Editor of BBC Radio Wales, ‘for well educated and trained young people’ who wanted a career in broadcast journalism. Before he joined the Centre for Journalism (the CJS), long before it was the school we know today, he spent more than 20 years at the BBC as a journalist, editor and manager. He worked as an editor at BBC Radio Wales, an executive producer for the World Service news and current affairs, and was a current affairs producer at BBC Television.

But Bob was not only committed to the best of broadcast journalism, he was also committed to Wales. He was extraordinarily well informed about the country, its people, its history and culture and he had learned the Welsh language and supported the training of Welsh speaking journalists throughout the time that he taught at Cardiff. He was a great defender of the idea of ‘Welshness’ and had no patience with those who did not appreciate the value of the Welsh language.

In October 1992, Bob was appointed to the position he held until he died. Between that time and last week he trained many well known broadcast journalists, including BBC foreign correspondents Damian Grammaticas and Chris Hogg, as well as Newsround presenter Laura Jones. Dozens and dozens of broadcast students have reason to be thankful for Bob’s years as a teacher and for the 110% he always gave to his students and the course. Broadcast journalism in Great Britain and beyond is better today because of the dedication of Bob Atkins.

He was one of those wonderful, demanding teachers who would not tolerate mediocrity, and whose students all felt that he took them to places they would never have gone alone or without him. The broadcast course was Bob’s life and soul. He was unfailingly generous with his time and his energies and he worked tirelessly to make sure all his students were trained well. He took enormous pride in the prizes they won and the things they went on to do. He was a loyal and caring friend and mentor.

The broadcast course at Cardiff  is now recognised as the premier course in the country and that is because of Bob. He is, and will be, sadly missed by all his present and past students and by all of those who have worked with him over the years. He leaves a huge gap and he will be a hard act to follow. As Colin Larcombe has said: ‘He was simply the best.’

Terry Threadgold
Head, Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies
June 7, 2007