Posts Tagged ‘Lockerbie’

Jon Sopel with students

BBC correspondent and broadcaster Jon Sopel trekked all the way to Harrow for the benefit of students at the University of Westminster.

My class was lucky enought to have the insightful and dynamic political broadcaster discussing his career highs and lows for a full hour this evening.

With stories like you wouldn’t believe he entertained us and imparted some much appreciated advice.

‘There are jobs that will be better paid’ – Jon Sopel

I do not think for one second that any of the trainee journalists on my course, or in fact on the undergraduate pathway, have illusions of sizeable pay checks at the end of our year of study.

It was good to hear it voiced by someone who would actually know.

When he posed himself the question ‘would you change it if you could do it all again?

The response was reassuringly, ‘not a chance.’

This is the kind of speaker that you want to listen to.

The Stories

Over his career he has covered the Tsunami in Thailand, Hurricane Katrina and the hunt for Raoul Moat.

He has interviewed Gordon Brown, current PM David Cameron, David Beckham and Heather Mills.

And yet he also openly admitted his ‘blind terror’ during air raids in Kuwait City and his panicked fumbling to get a gas mask on in seven seconds.

A story that stuck in my mind was his shocking introduction to the darker side to the old adage of ‘getting stuck in’.

The Lockerbie Diaster

In 1988 as a young reporter he was asked to cover the Lockerbie bombing in Scotland.

Upon arrival in the small village, amongst a hoard of other reporters, he saw an opportunity and started chatting to a chinook helicopter crew member.

He secured a flight with helicopter but failed to ask for details about the excursion and found himself on mission to recover bagged bodies and air-lift them away from the site.

The experience stayed with him as a particularly shocking and unsettling time;

‘That Christmas was hard,’

he warned young, eager journalists;

‘So brace yourself for that’.

‘My Job is Not to Keep Secrets’

On his position as presenter of the BBC’s Politics Show Sopel spoke easily.

He told us to be confident in our approach to interviewing and to always be fully prepared;

‘You are looking for a story, you aren’t trying to impose your views.’

Identifying and pursuing newsworthy lines in a polite and persistent manner is key according to Sopel.

He was completely different to the man described in reviews.

Then again the reviewers hadn’t even spelt his name correctly so are probably not the most reliable of sources.

Overall he was honest and got us thinking about the questions that we really do need to address before we embark on our journalistic careers.

Can you deal with the often horrific realities and images that a journalist will have to encounter?

Are you going to ask the questions that need to be asked?


What is the journalists role in times of extreme need? Is it to continue to report and maintain objectivity or to get involved and try to help?


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