Inside Out – September 06

When a senior editor at one of Britain’s leading newspapers was called and invited as a guest to one of our events he said that he’d never set foot in the Frontline Club and called it a “wanky concept”.

It is tempting to name the editor involved but I will follow the common UK practice of writing stories based on anonymous sources. I am pleased to report that his attitude isn’t shared by other leading figures in the news industry. Many other editors and correspondents generously give up their evenings to come along to 13 Norfolk Place and contribute to our debates.

The Frontline Club and Forum has become a place where journalists and interested members of the public can share insights and gain new perspectives. In the past two months those who came along to our events heard from Ghaith Abdul Ahad – perhaps the most insightful journalist covering the insurgents in Iraq – and seen the photographs taken at great risk by himself, Kael Alford and Thorne Anderson who all worked “unembedded” in Iraq.

There have been packed Forums to hear journalists, academics and ex-soldiers analyse the developments in Somalia, and through live links to Kabul, get the views of an influential Taliban official, who in their new media-friendly approach, promised to provide access to visiting news teams and not threaten relief workers.

Our Media Talk on July 25 gave a crash course on the most salient aspects of the Israel-Hezbollah war in Lebanon. There was nothing that I read the next day in the British press that hadn’t been dissected and analysed by our moderator, former Guardian journalist Martin Woollacott, and his panel.

And then there was the dramatic exchange between John Morris, the legendary Life picture editor, and Phillip Knightley, author of First Casualty, who finally met face-to-face to debate whether one of history’s most iconic photographs was faked. Knightley has questioned the authenticity of Robert Capa’s famous “falling soldier” photograph captured at the moment of death during in the Spanish Civil war. Morris was Capa’s photo editor at Magnum and has seethed for years over Knightley’s insistence that Capa’s photograph may have been staged. The two panelists may not have agreed on that memorable evening but they did shake hands and agree on a revision of Knightley’s stance if Morris could provide further proof.

All in all, not a bad couple of months for a place built on a “wanky concept”.