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Newsround turns 40 - but how will it handle the pandas?

Julie presented Newsround from 1994 to 1997. Photo: BBC

I had a time-warp moment on News at Ten last night. It was the pandas that did it.

The last time I did this many stories about black and white bears and their seeming limitless inability to produce offspring, was when I worked at Newsround.

So today - as that venerable institution turns 40 – turns out to be the perfect moment to look back.

I joined Newsround as presenter/reporter when I was 24 – after three years in a regional newsroom. I’d grown up with it.

Newsround had been friendly everyday fixture of everyday life - John Craven, his sweaters and wow – that cool trimphone.

Totally hooked, I used to drag my mum in from the kitchen to watch it.

16 years later, it turned out to be one of the best jobs I could have had in TV News.

Panda keepers at Edinburgh Zoo opened a 'love tunnel' between male Yang Guang and female Tian Tian's enclosures. Credit: Danny Lawson/PA Wire

I reported from South Africa just after Mandela had been elected, from Hong Kong for the handover, from Bosnia at the end of the war – and from Uganda on the plight of the mountain gorilla. We made films about anorexia and school arson.

Everyone from Prime Ministers to pop stars wanted to be on Newsround – and they never got an easy ride just because it was aimed at kids.

The programme never patronises its audience – demands total clarity in its reporting and was privilege to work on.

It never shied away from the tough stuff. The Dunblane massacre happened on my stint there – I doubt any newsroom anywhere agonised over its storytelling the way we did that day. Every line, every picture was pored over. How to tell the story honestly – but without terrifying a young audience?

But it could also be great fun. I have an abiding memory of being sent to cover the Bristol Festival of the Sea – and interviewing its star guest – Kermit the Frog. Looking the Frog in the eye and attempting an interview, his puppeteer was lying on his back at my feet with a hand in the predictable part of Kermit’s anatomy. I know who looked the biggest muppet that day.

So Happy 40th Birthday to Newsround. I bet you’re doing the Panda story again today too. But I don’t envy the person writing what I suspect might be a rather delicate script.

Unlike on News at Ten last night, I can’t quite see the phrase ‘love tunnel’ making air.

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