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Read this: A crisis for war reporting?

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A crisis for war reporting?…

BBC sounds music Radio podcasts, hi, I'm only loving item and this is the media show from BBC Radio 4 hello one of the most glamorous in journalism some of our most memorable moments in the history of these came from those with their eyes and ears on the ground abroad but the phone reporting now face and existential crisis like the rest of us many international correspondence has been the past year grounded at home audiences and newspaper editors have got used to a year of massively reduce phone coverage within use there's a greater emphasis on stringers around the world to tell the story for us, so are these changes permanent and what do we lose if I perspective no longer comes from one of our own? Well? I first class panel of guests with me statexplore all of that and more John Simpson is the BBC's world affairs editor and a veteran of bone reporting covering on this every major wall and rev.

Over 50-years for Bastion Walker is the Washington DC Bureau chief for Pisces and before that ran their middle east Bureau Christina lamb is Chief foreign correspondent for the Sunday time reporting on Pakistan and Afghanistan for more than three decades and our Damon is senior international correspondent for CNN based in Istanbul now before we get into the heart of the I like the rest of us, you're the only one actually not based at home.

You're out and about so can you tell us where are you and what are you doing to climate change story taking place in Turkey there's been this sort of explosion but looks like this alien weird slimy substance in the sea of Marmara and other areas of the visually scientifically called mucilage but we're actually going to do a story on that how it's typed to climate change and will be diving into it.

Will it be grocery and interesting and all the things I was expecting to say slimy alien substance was it wasn't wasn't that but anyway let's let's start with the most obvious challenge.

How do you do for reporting during a pandemic when you're not actually allowed to go anywhere John Simpson you've been doing this for century Eva ported from over 120 countries from around the world.

How does this last year compared for you absolutely terrible to be honest once sacking a hospital bed.

I remember I worked out that I climbed on a plane every 5 days during my 50 whatever it was years ago climbed on no planes for the bus.

Yeah, and I'm getting real withdrawal symptoms.

It's very nice.

With my family but in professional terms, it's it's rather is very depressing and rather infuriating to have you managed to do any phone reporting no not really I mean you know this is partly my my age.

I'm 76 and I recently fairly he had my second job so that you know where you could say that it was natural for them to say well.

You know leave the old boy where he is and you know let's get somebody else to go somewhere but I was talking to a friend of mine really young producer mini 30 of something and he just came back yesterday from Jordan and he was sort of bouncing off the walls and ceiling at the joying in having been away, so didn't just me see anybody I know.

Been travelling at this during this last year that you run a Bureau have you had to ground all your reporters we couldn't do that.

We had to cover your one of the most important elections in recent time so we've had to find ways around it and I was in New York during the pico Colbert last spring when they were you know 800-900 people dying of cobit and we were just unprecedented way where we were just getting back from a shoot taking everything off washing Our Clothes everyday taking these very extreme measures to mitigate the risks as best we could never probably had encountered quite in that way before but I'll let you know today.

You're the one that's actually a lockdown in Istanbul have your activity.

Curtailed or have you still been able to move around and cover different foreign stories I mean right now.

We're not in lockdown at the moment but time in Turkey does have a number for restrictions are in place in any of the other issue of the fact that I'm based in Turkey I live here and turkey is on the red list number of other countries that you would want to go to so you run up against that problem.

You know I've done significantly less trips in the last year than I used to I mean yes, I'm for the horrific explosion that happened a couple of troops into Iraq I went into Syria but it's really Ben and the challenge of sort of shifting your ring and having a move from how do I get to the story to be able to best and worst thing that into how do I tell the story?

Using what they're remotely so a lot of you know fixture stringers freelance shooters trying to guide them through my personal dial is try ensure that they are asking the right follow-on question building that out baby with his interview, but it's been a very interesting for the shift and I think our own spiky and are approaching recording.

I'm glad you brought up stringers and fixes because we actually gonna come to that slightly late in the program, but Christina lamb.

I wanted to bring you in here because you know your Sunday Times chief foreign correspondent.

Have you found the past year? Have you been able to get out and do any reports on it's been there for me even when I was pregnant.

I travelled travelled in the last year the last time.

I did it for an assignments in March of last year in South Sudan I haven't gone.

Is it is it fair to ask are we in the middle of an existential crisis before reporting you know we have audiences.

We have editors who's got your stuff are far less for and coverage.

You know let's face it for reporting is also horrendously expensive release coverage does mean with his costs which is great news for cash trapped organisations.

You know I'll come back to you Christina how are you that? We may never see pre pandemic levels again of foreign reporting because we drastically reduced our foreign coverage as a result of this the rest of the world didn't stop was still going on in Afghanistan in Syria and Yemen any other places lots of things were pages.

How many pages with the Sunday Times previously dedicate to phone reporting?

People are not complaining so my theory is that will never get that don't back.

It is really heartbreaking.


I spend my time doing for everyone else is getting WhatsApp people in different country is about things that are coming.

We're not covering them John do you share Christina's pessimism there? Oh absolutely I don't think it actually it's got what it is.

It's the origins of the reasons for pessimism don't like over that this was a process which has been going on really at least 5 years my personal and professional experience and I think and you know from around the newspapers around the world.

I think you can see signs that newspapers television radio the Albyn contracting for sometime.

We just spend the process along that's just because audiences themselves have just lost the interest lost the taste before I need something to do with the the the squeeze that journalism as a profession is it is experiencing as you said it is it is it possible to have correspondence just in the issue of in the in the case of fire news and that money isn't there it doesn't there for the Sunday Times that is not therefore CNN it's probably not therefore vice and it certainly wasn't there for the BBC Nottingham earlier.

Do you agree or well, then? I agree in that this is a nominal driving in a weird and Industry have been facing for a while and I think we've also globally speaking when facing this sort of project Rand of looking inwards and this.

Ignition on that scale have really been looking in government and then looking in work, but I feel as if they're covered pandemic dead was on an individual level actually wise a sense among Western audiences, and I'm going to put them over there being that most of us when we report for news report from non-western On Topic but he's Western audiences.

Can't really relate to relate to a level of War that were talking about in Syria or they can't relate to the level of an alarm unit Nations that are really struggling to even feed their kids one meal a day but went over to hit people all of a sudden went through this experience what if I was going through this in the middle of a war or in the middle of a refugee camp and so on a human level you had a bit more connection.

I feel on a global scale.

Then again on that bigger governmental level there was a lot of inward-looking that the big problem that I think we as foreign journalists fight against people are interested in each other and we cannot allow this sensor.

It's too expensive or people are in Dead or they're not watching we can't allow that apathy to demoralize.

I just want to bring some milk in here because it says on the other side of this kind of you in this game.

So you must think there's a big audience appetite for the kind of work that you're doing really good about just how connected to the story this international story that's unfolding around the world people in this country have been through that they've seen you know some of the highest rates of cobit some of the highest fatality.

This disease so now when they see stories come other places like what happening India right now.

What's around the corner in the pool.

I think there's a real opportunity there for National journalism to whinney Hill stories that have a connection to this audience over here because people have lived through that like a recording from India we recently did a short documentary Out of out of there, which was incredibly powerful and and and horrific just what's going on the ground that had some of the highest rates of viewership that we've seen you.

I just want to to ask the question.

You know yes sure.

They might be value in 4-in in 4 and 14 but with most of us working from home surely.

There's now a bigger Alliance local reporters and stringers to carry out the work that phone importers would traditionally have done and it isn't there a big more question around that you know when they're talking about outsourcing some of the most dangerous parts of Germany

Local people on the ground and you know what sort of this does that carry has been the case since I started I mean I can remember doing the worst years of Iraq there was a huge reliance local stringers in places like the new Jones in the evening Mosul dream that last fight against Isis it's nothing new but you are absolutely right.

I mean this is where the virus is ravaging the population there is an increasing reliance on on those with an underground borders are closed now.

So you done something.

What do you make of this because you know the relationship between foreign correspondent and stringer has I guess always been slightly tricky one in in away.

I mean he is actually a relationship of mutual strength or at least to be I mean no saying foreign correspondent would go.

Ignore the local people that are working for his or her outfit from there.

I think the the question is that the balance and the reason but using local people more than people like me I mean tourists if you're right people that the drop-in bye-bye parachute into a story it is of course much much cheaper and you don't need to pay a local person for all the things that every organisation has to its own a national report value does a foreign correspondent ring when you've got someone on the ground you can tell the authentic Lee in their own way in what do you make that you're actually in Istanbul to the reporting?

Take for example a story that you know intimately well the same way that these local stringers and fixtures know their own life their own country sometimes especially if it's a story that has been in the news for a very long time.

There is a certain added benefit to having that sort of fresh look coming in and then there's also the other benefits of asking a question or following a train of a train of emotion.

Maybe is so more more for the local journalist who lived at they don't think that it should necessarily be part of a news report but when you come in there exactly ASDA foreign correspondent.

You have that moment we can all relate to this we should actually Focus this news report on this one small thing and I'll give one example a year ago.

We went in.

And this is you know just before the pandemic began and it seems like every other for a pictorial this intensify bombing and tens of thousands of people on the road and we recorded so many times.

I can't even remember and during that particular trip because you're freezing cold they split in the middle of the night.

They were wearing what they've lost their toys behind they were hungry in my hands around and she's a ladder and she says always something is wrong and I was like why and she says the children are crying the children should be crying it hasn't crossed my mind have covered the story so many time it hadn't cross you know we had a local fixture without who was hoping I walked inside his mind because he's been seeing it for so so there is merit to the small little details that you can pull out and it just hate the different perspective.


Able to relate to the sword, do you use string as in your phone and how much do you rely on them sometimes not so much because I go I've been getting for a long time to various places of people where I go and also some of the places.

I mean it's massive of course to having local knowledge and so talking to lots of little people but sometimes they cover a very dangerous the local journalist to cover and stories.

I might be due would be very hard for them to be involved within stay in the country.

Where is away at the end of the day, so it's not the ones of you know I'd like to be working with the sometime endangered so but I totally agree with 4 hours about the importance of Afghanistan

Sometimes somebody comes that he's never been before and write something and I think oh my goodness that's something.

I just totally take for granted and I realised that it is really interesting and we should be covering it.

So I've been on the ground I suppose what will sort of touching on here flight elephant the room is that in a phone and putting is it's incredibly dangerous.

It's probably you know one of the most dangerous aspects of of journalism and you know I want to ask you to see how confident are you that the Sunday Times has got your back if you were arrested or kidnap the body either you you say you don't want to put that risk on local reporters and stringers, but what about your own personal safety question to ask.

Is it wasn't that? Let's see some changes at the newspaper where we now have to do risk assessments before we go on a trip with Frankie drivers magic they ask you things like what's your exit? I don't know what my ministration then I have been kidnapped Pakistan people didn't know where was so I think it is to get out of that did you did you know it's a long story very quick abridged version I was with a photographer and fortunately and they took out mobile phone as soon as they came into the hotel room the first thing.

They did not to leave my phone on the side but

But the photographer was travelling with expensive he was actually able to make a phone call to we were able to let people know and eventually various things we go out.

How are you? You are not in along there.

I take it from that you've had your own personal Close Shave we've had a number of questions.

You know it's part of the job dragging down playing the dangers by at the same time.

We're all very cognizant of them were all very aware that you can plan and plan and plan there will always be an element of uncertainty in the best thing that you can do is basically trident.

Consequences of that uncertainty and I do feel at least you know when it comes to Siena and I mean they are very very surely conscious to the point where you not I sometimes feel like they're overprotective parents, but that being said there have been a number of occasions were had I been left to my own devices.

I would honour head with a fine and I probably would not be here today.

Does vice-like risk advice is known for being very itchy very immersive reporting you normally quite open with the audiences.

Aren't you as you're kind of underground doing it about the risks that you face lyrics risks.

No absolutely not I mean that's just a necessary piece of the story is complex if you report your natural disaster.

It's something that everybody in this group nose is just a reality that you have to FaceTime invoices recording is about being there.

It's about seeing things on the ground.

It's a mess.

Garden tiles if you're going to becoming a story to certain degree of risk and that's the same across the board, but I think if you start wanting Adam embracing adult kind of need to have that as part of your your your recording that's that's that's a problem with the value of reporting and whether audiences you know even but I guess you know the question.

I'd like to really come to now is would it matter if I'm reporting fell by the wayside you know given the last year.

We've had let you know could be really reflect on it.

Is there any real world impact A414 John what do you think well? I just remember back of the time of 911 a period when the American network cut back pretty savagely on their foreign reporting and then suddenly out of the blue comes this appalling prices.

Killing thousands and thousands of people directed from a country which actually yes a most Americans could even point to on on a map and there was a big bad time.

There was a big upsurge in people saying to the networks in particular.

Why didn't you tell us that these building up and there was a lot of kind of self laceration on the part of the network's one that I know said publicly we promise you we will never drop our guard again and we will always tell you what's happening around the world things that would feel your course it was I don't know what about 3 years before they were right back where they're being so but the only function let me just say

Stop the only function of foreign news to tell you about dangers.

Of course it isn't but that is quite a major function and without that our audience is a going to be quite angry with us.

If we not been doing the job right but do you set out to change the world of your phone and what what's the endgame for you? Oh? No, I know I just don't think that is the right approach at all to say to people to your audience is listening.

You gotta do something you know the Western governments gotta get together hopefield.

That's the function of of being a foreign correspondent in broadcasting.

I think it's to say look here.

It is I'm telling you what's going on here now.

It's up to you.

What you make of it if you don't want to take any notice well.

That's your decision.

You do want to do something about it.

That's that's also your decision, but you know I know part of this.

I'm not going to start our penny campaigns and sing and writing to to my politicians because I don't think that is the function of of Public Service Broadcasting you're not then start opening on what what do you make that John is staying but I also feel like you know it is very easy to get demoralized about the state of affairs and I do believe that.

He made his moral compass is broken and I do believe that there is extreme value and what we do as foreign journalists and it has stopped the I have yeah.

Yeah as a result of the work.

You've done yes and actually I started a charity because I was so appalled and so depressed over the apathy towards journalism.

Lack of impact that journalism and spotlighting is crisis and his Wars was having that I could no longer just bear witness and so I started a charity called in all that actually helps your Winter war impact of children have fallen through the gaps in medical care access to health assistance that they need but as I was done.

I never for a second thought about Apple journalism because at the end of the day even want to cause a recording on dusting like it's helpless and hopeless a world where the rest of us were not informed about it is not one that I wanna live in and we also when it comes to a lot of these things we cannot on now the government the oppressor the dictators to be the one white their own version of history.

We need the version of history that one correspondent bring life to be the one that is also part of the record.

Casino, what do you make of that? Do you think for reporting can have a tangible impact? Obviously one of the reasons that dictators band respondents often don't want people to know what's going on in their country their ability to go and in the hope that things will change.

Thank you to all my guests today John Simpson the BBC's world affairs editor Christina lamb chief foreign correspondent at the Sunday Times Washington DC Bureau chief of I sneeze and arwa Damon senior international correspondent for CNN thanks to Duncan Helen today sound engineer the media show will be back same time next week, but thanks for your time.

Transcriptions done by Google Cloud Platform.

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