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BFBS Team in Afghanistan

In Helmand Desert With BFBS

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.

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