Thursday, February 22, 2007
The last two weeks at World Update were just as exciting as the first two. I met some very interesting people and was given more responsibilities to handle stories all on my own. I was very please when the editor gave me the Liverpool story to handle. Liverpool was bought by two American businessmen and we needed to speak to a sports business expert to say why Americans are now interested in British football and also to say what impacts that will have on the traditions of the club.
We also had to speak to fans and see what they thought about the whole issue. I stressed out in the beginning because the story was out of my comfort zone but was really glad when I pulled it off with the help of the producers on the program. It was good to feel that I wasn't only working on Middle East stories.
I also met Martin Fletcher a journalist at the Times who was recently in Iraq (Ghazaliya) to be specific. In his article he compared the Ghazaliya he had last seen in 2003, a nice green suburb, to the Ghazaliya he saw when he went a month ago, a battered unrecognizable slum. I called him to see if he would come on the show for a live interview to describe in more detail what he saw.
He did agree to the interview and was live with Dan Damon that morning. I showed him out of the building afterwards and had a nice talk. I wasn't really sure what was more exciting for me; chatting to a prominent journalist from The Times or chatting to someone who's just been to Iraq and back.
He was talking about how frustrated American troops really are and about pools of sewage and piles of trash and poor Iraqis with no schools or medical support.
We also had a chat about the changing face of journalism and how he thought print journalism will always exist even if took different forms. He was leaving for Romania that day so I hope he had a good stay and some good stories.
The other really interesting person I met was Brad Meltzer, an American writer who spent a week with George Bush senior who told him what it felt like to be a president one day and have to stop at red signals like everyone else the next day.
One heart breaking story Bush senior shared with Meltzer was that of him giving a final presser in his home lawn and when the media left he realized that he had to clear the coffee cups himself because there was no one to do it that for him anymore. He also spent a day with Bill Clinton who shared what life has been like for him after the presidency.
Meltzer's latest Thriller "The Book of Fate" is about a former president facing that power vacuum. We had a brief chat on his way out in which he declared that coming from Florida he'll probably never get used to English weather.
He also said that despite his politics that are not quiet pro-Bush to say the least , he really did like Bush senior as a person (well … an eighty something person) when he spent time with him.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
I've been really bad with blogging my work placement...I finally decided that if I don't blog now, I would just go into my last week without blogging at all...The problem is thatI spend my weekends getting over my weekdays' hours!! Everyday of the weekend I promise myself to blog while everything is fresh in my head, but my body seems set on catching up on lost sleep...Anyway here goes.
I guess before I talk about how my work placement is going, I have to say how lucky I feel to have gotten the World Service. I realized that even more when I started the actual work. The news agenda just makes so much sense to me. I guess coming from my background makes the BBC World Service a natural choice. BBC's Radio1,Radio2 , Radio 4 and Radio Five Live (I mention those because these are the ones I usually listen to, not that other stations and local radio is not good too) are all world class but highly domestic and, for someone who has moved here only 8 months ago, I do feel like a stranger when I listen sometimes.But with BBC World Service I feel right at home as far as the news agenda is concerned.
World Update is a news and current affairs program on the World Service and airs at 10:00am GMT and 05:00 am on the U.S.A's East Coast. Itis very interesting because of the wide range of stories you can run. Stories vary from really hard news to really interesting and fun stories.
It is really hard to believe how much I got to do in the three weeks I've been in World Update. But I still think my first day was very exceptional.That Monday was the day of Barzan Al Tikriti's (Saddam Hussein's half brother) and Awad Al Bandar's execution. When we went in they had already been hanged and of course that was going to be our lead...I worked with one of the producers on the story and was asked to find contacts to Iraq to have someone speak about the executions. To make a long story (and a large number of phone calls) short...I ended up with Ja'afar Al Musawi's number! He is the chief prosecutor in Saddam's Dujail trial.
I actually didn't realize how surreal all of this was until I found myself in a studio interviewing him on the phone and him giving me graphic discriptions of Barzan's head coming off his body and how tight security was during the executions! being caught in the moment I challenged him a bit about the head thing and asked what he would sayto speculations that this was a mistake and that the execution did not go down as smoothly as they claimed. He was then quick to reply " it was not a mistake it was the will of Allah" a clip the producer of the story really liked.
I mean really!!! Here I was talking to someone I'd seen the night before on Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya speaking to me about something I could've only heard him say on some program on the BBC World Service...Oh, wait a minute that IS where I was was!!!I then had to translate the clips we were going to use for them to be voiced. The clips worked well and some were also used in another program called News Hour.
Egypt's Nuclear Program
The first week also saw me working on the Egyptian Nuclear program story (one that I actually pitched). I spoke to a number of Egyptian politicians and nuclear experts and was discussing the implications of a nuclear program in Egypt and whether it could one day be used for military purposes and also what it meant to Gamal Mubarak's political profile as a potential successor to his father.
I still had to pinch myself that I got to do a story like that on a program like World Update. I got alot of support from the Editor and the team and was shown how to contatct the BBC studios in Cairo to book them for our guest. And how to write a full brief with my idea, the guest details and suggested questions.
The rest of the week and the week to follow I made numerous contacts with Baghdad.I honestly have never felt closer to Iraq in my life. I also chased a story in Liberia about the first all female military contingent there and was trying to get an interview with the commander in chief which in turn meant numerous contacts with the United Nations envoy there, who was really cooperative and made the interview happen.
Another interesting day was chasing the Greek Minister of Culture to speak about Greece's anger over an auction in the UK on Greek Royalty items. I didn't get the minister but managed to get the cultural attache in London who turned out to be a great speaker and was very fired up about the issue!
All For Peace
One of my favorite stories was All For Peace Radio. This was about a radio station based in Jerusalem where Palestinians and Israelis work together. The station divides its 24 hours evenly between Arabic and Hebrew transmission. It's morning program "Sabah El Khier" (Good Morning) attratcs a huge audience on both sides of the conflict msinly becaus eit features both sides of the conflict. It normally hosts Arab and Jewish guests discussing a crtain issue and gives them both a chance to reveal their side of the story.
I spoke to the program's presenter Ziad Darwish to fix an interview and in the course of our conversation he said to me that inspite of being a "proud Palestinian" as he put it, he was a commited and professional journalist who was determined to project both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict.At one point I was speaking to one of the Israeli directors in the station asking him for a certain clip and I sensed the interesting dynamics of this exceptional radio station.
I also had to get an interview with the Irish minister of Enterprise about green cards being introduced in Ireland. It wasn't easy but I finally got through.. What else? Oh yes, I made contact with the governor of Najaf and asked him about the attacks on militants last weekend and how they affected Ashouraa' celebrations in the Shi'ite city.
I chased a Nigerian politician for a whole day to get him to respond to a Human Rights Watch report about how education and health are on the verge of collapsing in one of Nigeria's wealthiest states.It was really difficult but we got the response in the end.
I could go on and on about what I learned and what I've been given the oppurtunity to do in World Update.However, all I can really say is that I went in expecting to be treated like the work experience kid and instead I was given a chance to contribute ideas and follow up stories. I got alot of help and support from a team of extremely professional journalists. I was trusted and was given responsibilities which made me feel useful and productive.
I really need to get going... I have to get up in four hours to start my journey to Bush House.