At least a couple of generations of radio producers will be very sad to learn of the death of Mark Whittaker, a BBC reporter and presenter across a range of programmes over 31 years.
After graduating from Durham, he joined the Thomson regional trainee scheme, and moved through to reporting on the Lancashire Evening Telegraph in 1980. In 1983, he got behind the microphone with Radio Lancashire, and on to Radio WM in Birmingham.
There followed eight years reporting and presenting on Newsbeat, with some hosting of Costing The Earth on Radio 4. He was in the original line-up for Radio 5 Live, presenting a weekend show paired with Liz Kershaw. Then came six years with You and Yours, before a move to the World Service, on The World Today. Most recently he had been part of the World Business Report and Business Matters team until the sudden onset of cancer.
He had a huge brain, full of the sort of facts that could win you pub quizzes - and ready to argue cogently at the microphone, or round the pub table. He knew his real ale, Premier League, non-league and kids football, through Blackburn Rovers to Kidderminster Harriers and Pitshanger FC. In programme production, it was always good to see him come through the door - the shift would be fun. On the road, you got jokes - as well as genuine empathy for the people at the heart of difficult stories. In preparation, you got crafted scripts, both witty and to the point. Away from the mike, he was often puzzled and pained by the way the BBC worked at higher levels - but on-air, you got a thoroughly professional, thoughtful and clear broadcaster, asking the simple questions the audience expected. He'd adopted the Twitter name @baldynicechap - he was that, and much more.