Monday, 12 September 2011

Real News

Last week the news broke that the BBC World Service Journalist killed in Afghanistan in July was shot by American forces. Ahmed Omed Khpulwak was killed in a case of mistaken identity.

Journalists around the world will have had a moment, however brief, of reflection. The news is real and too often that's forgotten.

I still remember the day that the news became real for me; I was working in Stoke-On-Trent presenting the early show and marketing the radio station. My friend Heather was reading the Breakfast news bulletin and was leading on the top local story of a young man who had been killed in a terrible car crash the previous night. It was just a news story and we thought nothing of it.

The morning continued as it always did, she read the news I made tea and tried to get more people listening; we had a laugh and then got on with stuff.

When the programme manager came in we knew that there was something a little wrong... She was an ebullient woman who would bound in, call me her 'prank monkey' and then we'd catch up and she'd start work. Today was different. It wasn't that she was glum, more preoccupied... She went into her office closed the door and made a phone call.

I'm nosey, you have to be if you're a journalist, so I tried to catch a sense of what was going on. I didn't listen at the door, but you can tell a lot from the tone of voice of someone in another room. She was sombre. All of a sudden she came out of her office and gathered the morning team around her.

"***** isn't coming in today" she said, "his nephew was killed in that car crash last night"

There was silence for half a beat and then Heather who had just been reading another story, who had just been presenting the news, who had been talking about a dead teenager as if he were a lost sock, burst into tears.

That day the news became real for me.

Last week the news became a little more real for any journalist with any sense of empathy. Ahmed Omed Khpulwak wasn't well known, but he was a journalist. Now he's news.

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