John Simpson says BBC gives far too many chances for staff to back out of dangerous places.

‘When Reporters Cross the Line’ is the title of a book which I am currently completing with a colleague,Jeff Hulbert. It will be published by Biteback in August.This enterprise partly explains the lack of blogs on this site recently.

One of the undrawn lines in journalism is what risks are worth taking in pursuit of a story.

As part of my research I have been listening to an interview which John Simpson,World Affairs Editor of the BBC,gave on 16th January to a former BBC Foreign Editor,Vin Ray, at the Frontline Club in London. The audio is available on a Frontline Club podcast on itunes.

I have transcribed a section of the interview in which Vin Ray asks about safety issues in dangerous places.


Do you have any kind of policy when it comes to safety,how do you make that judgement about what to do?

JOHN SIMPSON:‘I do but it sounds so self- regarding, I’m a bit embarrassed to say it but I’ve learned two things,only two things in my career,one is just to keep on going and manifestly I have done that but the other thing is when you are in these kinds of situations,get in there, just absolutely get in there,get closer to it…Sometimes your colleagues aren’t as enthusiastic and as willing as you may be,but what I feel about it is..


VIN RAY:you don’t worry about putting your colleagues lives by ‘getting in there’?

JOHN SIMPSON : I,I,no, no I don’t, because they are there to do a job, just as I am, I wouldn’t let them,I really,really wouldn’t let them go ahead of me or go to places where I’m not prepared to go,certainly I would think that was the most disgusting way of behaving but you know,the only point of being somewhere like that is to show people back home and around the world what is really going on.The cameraman,whoever else may be there knows that and that’s why they are there and it’s a duty which I think you don’t abrogate and I just think that you’ve got to get stuck in and if you don’t get stuck in you don’t get the pictures, and if you don’t get the pictures you’re not doing the job,and if you’re not doing the job,you’re not telling people what is really,really happening.You know nobody has to do this, you can be the Arts Correspondent, you can specialize, nobody in the BBC –I mean God you know as Foreign Editor of the BBC-sometimes its really difficult to drag people out of the BBC’s embrace,to get to dangerous places,so many people coming up to them and saying you don’t need to go if you don’t want to and don’t ,you know sometimes you really got to kind of grit your teeth and get  out of the bloody place because they want you to, they give you far too many chances I think to back out but that’s what I think. The cameraman, the kind of cameraman that I work with are people that understand that,I wouldn’t take anybody to anything that didn’t understand the problem and wasn’t prepared to do it. I wouldn’t look down on them,I wouldn’t criticise them, everybody has got a right to say this is a line beyond which I am not going to go but you are paid to do the job, you are paid to tell people what’s happening, then you got to do it.’




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