Inside Out – September 07

August  finds  me like most other Londoners who for various reasons are not on holiday in some exotic clime grumbling constantly about the dismal weather. And those of us in London are the lucky ones. No flash floods, no hurricanes, no monster storms, no death defying heat waves. But that said, we’d still like to see the occasional sunshine and enjoy the pleasures of warm summer nights. Not this summer. It feels like late autumn out there.

In fact, it hasn’t made much difference because I’ve been using most of my free time, to finish a journalism book (with City University Professor Heather Purdey) that draws on the contributions of many leading journalists, including so many of our Frontline Club members.

It must be said that there’s no money in any of this, and the contributors have agreed to write 6,000 words for the greater good of educating aspiring journalists. Even Vaughan Smith is pounding away on a chapter as he juggles the business of running Frontline with preparing to return to being a Frontline cameraman in Afghanistan. Some prospective contributors reacted in John McEnroe style when told there was neither money nor any prospect of remuneration in this: “You cannot be serious!”

What has struck me in researching all of the topics that are covered in this book is what a wealth of journalistic material we’ve already established in our Frontline Club archive. While we make no pretence of being a “BBC College” and don’t think of ourselves as a centre for continuing education, the fact is that the Frontline Club in less than four years of existence has provided anyone interested in media and journalism with valuable articles (from this increasingly newsy newsletter) and video recordings from scores of sessions.

What strikes you as you trawl through our website is the impressive roster of leading journalists and media observers who’ve made time to write for us and to take part in debates and conversations at Paddington.

Any teacher of journalism and media worth their while should make the Frontline Club website a mandatory read. For example, if you wanted an inside account of how BBC News dealt with Alan Johnston’s long hostage nightmare, you could read Fran Unsworth’s compelling piece about how she and her newsgathering team dealt with this crisis.

Now if we could only find a way to make available (online) all those powerful documentaries that attract so many standing-room-only crowds at the Frontline Forum. The screenings and the conversation that follows – sometimes more heated than enlightening, at other times inspiring and stimulating – have been one outlet for us wet, dispirited Londoners.

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