Darlington College NCTJ journalism students Jonathan Barber and David Burton joined the Northern Echo team reporting on the funeral of BBC Tees broadcaster Ali Brownlee on Teesside.

In Adults, In the Press, News, on the 26th, February 2016

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For Jonathan, it was a particularly poignant day as he remembered the hero who inspired him at the age of 11.

Growing up as a passionate Middlesbrough fan and an aspiring commentator, Ali Brownlee was someone who I dreamed of emulating when I was older.

Aged 11, I wrote to numerous broadcasters asking for help to pursue my dreams of being a commentator, but was left disappointed when I received no replies.

This was until I received a touching letter from my hero who not only offered advice but allowed me into the commentary box for a game against West Brom.

The letter epitomised Ali, genuine and heart-felt. He noted my enthusiasm, something  I got from listening to him on the radio.

Boro lost 5-0 in the game where I accompanied Ali and Gary Gill but I was not bothered. I had done what I always dreamed of and my idol had made it possible.

Now a trainee journalist, my experience with Ali nearly seven years ago was where I feel it all began and I cannot thank him enough.

It would have been easy for Ali to ignore my letter, it is proof of how he touched so many lives. I cannot imagine he knew the incredible influence he had on mine.

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2 days ago"Big thanks to film maker @alan_fentiman today for his inspiring talk to our TV and film students https://t.co/p9oCvazRhU"

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