Gavin Esler is a Scottish journalist, television presenter and author. Esler was previously a main presenter on BBC Two’s flagship political analysis programme, Newsnight, from January 2002 until January 2014, and presenter of BBC News at Five on the BBC News Channel more recently. Esler is the Chancellor of the University of Kent.
Esler began working as a journalist in 1976, aged 23, with a junior reporter position at the Belfast Telegraph.
Esler joined the BBC in 1977 as Northern Ireland reporter, and extended his role after joining Newsnight in 1982. Esler was appointed Washington correspondent in 1989 and then, a year later, became the BBC’s chief North America correspondent.
Based in Washington, Esler’s responsibilities now extended to shaping the corporation’s coverage across the whole of North America, which included reporting on both the earlier George H. W. Bush and Clinton administrations. Esler has also reported for news and documentary programmes across Europe, Russia, China and North and South America.
Esler combined reporting with presenting from the mid-1980s on BBC One’s regional news programme for London and the South East of England – Newsroom South East. He worked as an anchor on the BBC News channel from its outset in 1997. He co-presented its prime-time slot with Sian Williams for several years.
In January 2003 he joined Newsnight, replacing Jeremy Vine, who had left to take over from Sir Jimmy Young on Radio 2. During his career Esler has interviewed heads of state and government including Bill Clinton, Jacques Chirac and King Abdullah II of Jordan. He has also interviewed a wide range of cultural figures including Dolly Parton, Doris Lessing, Penélope Cruz, Angelina Jolie, V. S. Naipaul, Roger Waters, Vikram Seth and Seamus Heaney.
Esler left Newsnight in January 2014, and was replaced by Laura Kuenssberg.
Esler presented Dateline London on BBC News and BBC World News most Sunday mornings at 11 am. Between 2008 and 2017 he also presented the BBC News at Five on the BBC News channel on Fridays and when Huw Edwards was away.
Esler has also hosted Radio 4 factual series, Four Corners along with fellow Scottish broadcaster, Anne MacKenzie. He had a regular slot on Saturdays and Sundays, working across BBC World, BBC News and BBC1, and co-presented the regular Film Review with Mark Kermode.
Esler is the author of five novels and two non-fiction books. The novel A Scandalous Man was described by fellow author Bernard Cornwell as “a compelling book, its political sophistication made luminous with wisdom sympathy and story telling”.
His fifth novel, Powerplay, was published by HarperCollins in August 2009. Esler’s first non-fiction book, The United States of Anger published in October 1997 by Penguin, explores America’s discontent with itself and was described by the New Statesman as “a vivid portrait of America in the 1990’s”.
Esler’s most recent book is Lessons from the Top published in August 2012 (Profile). In it Esler examines how leaders use stories to mould their audience’s perception of who they are. For several years he wrote regular columns for The Scotsman, The Independent and other publications.
Esler was appointed as the sixth Chancellor of the University of Kent on 24 January 2014 and he was installed as Chancellor in July that year.
On 11 March 2017, Esler confirmed via his Twitter profile that he would be leaving the BBC to concentrate on his writing activities. The Film Review was presented by other presenters although he continued to present Dateline London. He returned on 31 March 2017 to present his final BBC News at Five and film review.
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