Whether reporting from the cockpit of an RAF Typhoon jet fighter, being an eyewitness in the control room of a Royal Navy nuclear submarine or diving into the dirt of Afghanistan to escape a Taliban mortar attack – it’s been quite some ride.
Looking back on 40-plus years in journalism, I recognise only too well what an enviable experience it must seem.
All the more so because in today’s cost-strapped and office-bound industry it is hard to see how younger correspondents will have the chances I have been privileged to enjoy.
But if my experience has taught me one thing it is that reporters need to be where the story is. Sharp analysis and elegant phrase-making can be done at a distance, really finding out what is going on needs boots -and Biros -on the ground.
So my top tips to today’s budding battlefield correspondent
- Specialise. Decide early on what niche you want to fill and work hard at understanding the brief and making yourself top of news editors’ list when they’re in a hurry to find someone who really knows the subject.
- Be persistent. Pushiness pays off. Pester your editors, contacts, organisations, ANYONE who can help you reach where the action is.
- Stay confident. Self-belief and a conviction that the story is there to be told will carry you far.
- Look for the back ways into assignments, routes to the battlefront that others won’t have thought of. But always be mindful of your safety and those with you.