How to be a foreign correspondent – Part 3

Opinion Uncategorized

The third part of our exclusive interview with the Foreign Manager of the Daily Telegraph, Paul Hill…

Paul started at the Telegraph in 1971 when reporters filed from phone boxes and copy girls dashed dispatches off typewriters, so how has the business of journalism changed since then to the present day?

"It’s a whole different game now," Paul says. "You can have tighter deadlines and more control over your journalists because things like satellites phones mean you have your hack on the end of the line whether they’re in Iraq or the Antarctic.

"Before this technology, it was a bit of a waiting game. You knew your guy was on the plane to the event but you had no idea what the story was or when you were going to speak again.

"Now you can be in constant contact and know how the story is developing. We’re very closely allied to our journalists via new technology.

"But the downside is the journalist has a lot of kit to carry around and if you get your car nicked with everything in it, it’s back to the dark ages!"

With no escape from the desk, deadlines and dangers of being in the field, isn’t the pressure too much for the modern day correspondent to bear?

"It’s synoptic," Paul says, explaining that being on the desk back in London can be as stressful as being the man or woman in the wilds, despite technological advances.

"The journalist is very much at the cutting edge and editors rely entirely on them doing their job, but the editor must guide and assist, even control if necessary. They both must get the best story before anyone else and come up with the ideas and suggestions.

"Another technological boost to the roving reporter is their ability to come onto a paper’s system via laptop and access information themselves, where in the past we would have to read agency copy to them. This saves us both an awful lot of work."

The wires – AP, AFP, Reuters et al – are both the bane and bastion of a reporter’s job. Paul says his desk uses their services sparingly, preferring to hear the story directly from his own people at the scene.

"We have the wires but I’d say we’re not over-reliant on them. We use them more as a guide, but we would be lost without them.

Reporters in the field are increasingly being asked to do their own photography. Does Paul think they can do this on top of everything else and remain first and foremost a journalist?

"Yes definitely!" he replies enthusiastically. The age of digital cameras has helped a lot and we encourage journalists to take their own pics. It saves us so much money. For example, Reuters charges £200 for a special, which is expensive, but if we send Joe Bloggs to get pics and words then we save money. we’re not huge payers because we don’t have to be.

"But we are fair," Paul insists. "If one of our stringers is in a hell hole and doesn’t file on the first day because he’s researching and getting a feel for the place but he files a big piece the next day, I’ll pay him for two days` work.

"I also pay extra if the journalist is in a dangerous place."