Thursday, November 21: There I was in the belly of the beast – The BBC. This was the stuff of dreams really. I grew up watching the BBC and I duly absorbed all the things that made British news great. No nonsense, straight to the point and bang on time, every time. That’s what it was like attending the BBC’s Working in Hostile Environments event at HQ in London.
Clear from the get-go
The instructions were clear – Arrive at 9 AM, get checked through security by 9:30 AM and take your seats by 9:45 AM. So, arriving 9:30 AM was not ideal. A long queue was the one thing I hate most in life but I was too busy being fascinated by just being there in the BBC.
But, something was off. How can there be so many people in the queue, when there were only a 150 odd tickets and most of them were already inside? That’s when I saw something that brought a smile to my face. A large number of these people were waiting to clear security so that they can go on a tour around the BBC. Yes! A tour around a news station!
It’s incredible that the BBC has managed to become something that the British people have become proud call their with an almost patriotic zeal. It has become an institution in its own right. Just as important as the National Gallery or the West End, the BBC was evolving history at its best.
An education in standards – “You could Die”
When you see the Jeremy Bowen on stage talking about a video we all bore witness to, a video where he is reporting with explosions matching him to the beat, you get the overwhelming feeling that you’re watching something special here. Here’s a man who was in Tripoli a week ago, and now he’s sitting on a stage talking about dodging bullets. Know the silver haired BBC guy wearing a helmet and flack-jacket reporting from war-torn regions of the BBC? It’s him I’m talking about.
“You could die, but we believe we never will,” was Bowen’s response to a question regarding the mortality rates of journalists in conflict zones. It was an equalizer that created ripples of honest responses from the audience. He wasn’t kidding anyone.
The Hopping Actor and the Tourniquet.
The highlight of the day, for me, was the excellent display by a security contractor that takes care of journalists when they’re out in the field. Yes, I say display because he was actually tying tourniquets and plugging imaginary holes in your thigh with his fingers.
What did you think? That the BBC would send out their journos without protection? Think again. A security contractor carrying full blown crisis gear – guns, medical pack, navigation tools – shadows the journalists and advises them what not to do in a battlefield.
The man who was star however, was the Hopping Man, who had one leg. He was an army veteran who had lost his leg in battle, but was taking part in a demonstration to help us, future journalists, understand what to do when you’re faced with an amputation situation. He was even wearing prosthetics to make it seem like an open wound! The security contractor would take out his tourniquet and tie it around the seemingly gaping wound. He would then go onto to use the rest of medical kit to save our Hopping Man’s life. Outstanding.
Finally, my favourite part of the day.
My favourite part of the day was not any one particular session. Was not any one particular moment. It was lunch! Yes, of course the BBC had a meticulously organized lunch, full of sandwiches and veggies., but that’s not the point.
It was during lunch, that I was able to walk up to the doyens of British media and say – Hello. Simple as that. You had Associated Press, BBC, Darts… all in the same room. That’s what these events are all about. Limitless opportunities can come your way with a simple shake of the hand.