Friday, 14 June 2013

What I said last night:

This is an edited extract from my remarks at the University of Westminster last night where I received the Charles Wheeler award for outstanding contribution to broadcast journalism.

I want to say a quick word about reporters, because Charles Wheeler remained a reporter to the very end. Not a presenter, not an editor, or a channel controller -- a reporter, because he understood, I think, that reporting is at the heart of what we do. Without reporters, there is no journalism worthy of the name. So in this age of talking heads, of wall-to-wall pundits, of hastily rewritten press releases, I would like simply to say we still need reporters as much as we ever did, to be where the story is, to dig, to question, and to challenge.

I spent most of my time as a broadcaster sitting in a presenter's chair, but inside my own head, I was always a reporter, and the people I envied were my colleagues who were out there doing the digging. People like some of the previous recipients of this award, among whom I am now so proud to be included: Jeremy Bowen, Lindsey Hilsum, and Allan Little.

Reporters are increasingly an endangered species: they are expensive, because getting them to where they need to be, and keeping them safe when they get there, costs a lot of money. Foreign bureaux are being cut back, reporter numbers are being scaled back. It's so much cheaper to have someone in a studio in London talking over a few pictures and a map, or pulling together copy from the news agencies. Cheaper, and a lot worse. So if we care at all about journalism, we must care about reporters: about training the next generation, employing them, and paying them properly.

Reporters do what journalism was invented to do: they tell us about the world we live in, reveal things that people in power don't want revealed, shine a spotlight into dark corners where terrible things are happening. Whether it's in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or in a children's care home, or at the Palace of Westminster, we need reporters as much as we ever did to dig, to discover, and to reveal.

Finally, I want to remember some of my friends and colleagues who lost their lives because they were reporters. David Blundy of the Sunday Times and Sunday Correspondent, killed in El Salvador in 1989; Farzad Bazoft of The Observer, executed in Iraq in 1990; John Schofield of The World Tonight, killed in Croatia in 1995, and of course, Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times, killed in Syria just last year. It is in their memory as some of the finest reporters of our time -- reporters who did exactly what journalism was invented to do, exactly as Charles Wheeler did -- that I gratefully accept this award. Thank you.

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