BBC World Affairs producer Stuart Hughes recently talked to Brunel students about his experience as a foreign correspondent and explained how journalists need to adapt to the changing media landscape.
Sadly, journalism can be a perilous profession and the story of Stuart Hughes demonstrates what it takes sometimes to journalists to bring the news to audiences back home.
“Foreign correspondent is a fantastic job, but it has come with a price”, he said. 10 years ago, he was on assignment for BBC News in Iraq and triggered an anti-personnel landmine after stepping out of his vehicle. That day, he lost half his leg and “went from a witness of war to a casualty of war”.
After his full recovery, Stuart Hughes carried on doing his job as a foreign correspondent.
“But I’m now certainly much more mindful of the consequences if something goes wrong”, he explained.
But if it is so dangerous, why does he do it? Because foreign correspondence is much more than a simple job, it is a passion.
“I like to speak to interesting people that have interesting stories”, he said. “If you work in a difficult country, you see the best and worst in people. And there is also a great camaraderie with other reporters, it’s wonderful.”
His fear of dying on the field is still very alive but according to him “the biggest threat for foreign correspondents now is not being shot, it is being kidnapped”.
And it is not the only change in a foreign correspondent’s life.
With smartphones, people have pretty much all they need to broadcast from everywhere with 3G or wifi which opened the doors to citizen journalism.
“We are learning a lesson from citizen journalists on how we are gathering our news”, said Stuart.
Nowadays, people don’t expect the first pictures of a typhoon to be in HD quality. People want news in a format that is suitable for them, on demand, and when it suits them. Mobiles are a massively important growth market, while newspapers and TV are going down.
With a smartphone, news can reach the audience in no time so people are ready to accept the drop in quality.
Stuart Hughes explained how important it is now to develop as many skills as you can if you want to become a journalist. It is not possible to say, “I’m a radio journalist, I don’t do TV” anymore. Stuart Hughes insisted on it, “Journalists need to work on many different platforms”.