Born in Thurnscoe, West Riding of Yorkshire, Leonard began his career as a reporter on the Wakefield Express series of weekly papers, then Yorkshire Observer, Bradford Telegraph and Argus and Yorkshire Evening Post. He was one of the BBC’s early television news reporters in the BBC News division (1954 – 1960) and was later BBC Radio News Canada correspondent (1960 – 1965) and Washington correspondent (1963 – 1965). In November 1963, as deputy correspondent in Washington, his Radio Newsreel report on the assassination of John F. Kennedy proved to be an historic recording. He also worked as a reporter on BBC TV’s Panorama (1965 – 1967). He was involved in coverage of five general elections: BBC reporter (1966); ITN reporter (1970, February 1974, 1983) and ITN presenter 1979.
Leonard moved to ITN, initially as a reporter and newscaster on News at Ten (when the programme launched in 1967). Between 1976 and 1987 he was, along with Peter Sissons, one of the main presenters for ITN’s News at One and often anchored the News at 5.45 (1979 – 1987).
Parkin was one of the most popular newscasters ever to work for ITN, and, like his former co-host of the News at 5.45, Michael Nicholson, he became renowned for his cheerful and friendly disposition. He always began the News at One by saying “Hello. Good afternoon” and then reading the headlines. During school holidays, he would also make a point of welcoming younger viewers at the start of News at One. When he presented News at 5.45 on 24th October 1979, he was the first ITN newscaster to be seen on ITV following the end of the ITV strike of August 1979 – October 1979. He welcomed back viewers: “Good evening, again. It’s good to be back again, so let me simply say, let’s get on with it.”
During the Falklands War of 1982, Parkin temporarily replaced Michael Nicholson as main presenter of the News at 5.45 and broke to the UK the news that the ARA General Belgrano had been sunk in a controversial incident during the Falklands War. He and Michael Nicholson provided a detailed report of this incident.
Leonard left ITN in 1987. His final broadcast was on News at One. At the end of the bulletin John Suchet introduced a surprise package of highlights from his career, produced by reporter Keith Hutchence. Parkin signed off: “And that’s the News at One. And for the last time from me. Thank you for all your messages. Goodbye.” He returned to his native Yorkshire to make a series of documentaries about the county for Yorkshire Television, entitled Pieces of Parkin.
He died of cancer of the spine, in Scarborough in 1993.
Video Clips on the Internet
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PICTURED: Leonard Parkin. SUPPLIED BY: Paul R. Jackson. COPYRIGHT: Unknown.