Inside Out – January 2008

When we began recruiting members to the Frontline Club, we were often told that it would never work. After all, the sceptics said, why would you want to become part of a club that catered to war journalists and ex-hacks who would bore you with their tales of near death experiences?

Four years later and over 1200 members signed up to the Frontline Club, we don’t hear that being said. Nor do we hear anyone saying that the Frontline Club is a place that exalts the journalism of the past and diminishes the journalism of the present.  

What was often debated at one of the 200 programmes and screenings held in 2007 at the Frontline Club – a staggering output – and a tribute to our dedicated hardworking programmers at Paddington–is the celebrity-driven news agenda and eroding commitment to hard-hitting documentaries about international issues. 

That reality was driven home in a study that was unveiled recently at the News Xchange Berlin international broadcast news conference. According to Influence Communications, a Montreal-based firm that has developed software that can track the coverage of 632 million new items around the world across all media platforms, Paris Hilton going to jail was the 13th most covered story in the world through November. And right behind it at number 12, again throughout the world, was the Madeleine McCann saga.  Iraq, the American presidential campaign, Iran, and Afghanistan did top the rankings but Darfur, Lebanon, and global warming didn’t make the top 15.  Paris Hilton even topped the Queen in the survey of leading international newsmakers. 

Yet this holiday season let us celebrate the exceptional journalism being done by so many brave and resourceful journalists, many of whom are active members of The Frontline Club. This is not one of those end of year rankings or listings of achievement but instead an acknowledgement of some of those by-lines and reports that caught my eye in recent weeks. If members reading this would like to add to the list, please send along your list.

•    Marie Colvin in the Sunday Times reporting on the streets of Basra on the escalating violence against Iraqi women for “un-Islamic behaviour.”

•    David Loyn of the BBC and Stephen Grey of the Sunday Times with British troops as they retook the Taliban stronghold of Musa Qala.

•    Tim Hetherington’s dramatic pictures in Vanity Fair from an extended assignment covering the ferocious US military’s battle against the Taliban in the Korengal Valley. He had to endure a four -hour walk after breaking his ankle.

•    Chris McGreal in the Guardian tracking down the embattled Burmese monks regrouping in their villages, recounting tales of torture and brutal beatings by the Junta.

•    Christina Lamb’s riveting eye- witness report in the Sunday Times aboard Benazir Bhutto’s bus after an assassination attempt that killed more than 100 people in Karachi.