Robin Lustig entered international journalism as a graduate trainee at Reuters new agency in 1970, exactly a year after I had. Our early careers at Reuters followed similar paths: he with foreign postings in Madrid, Paris and Rome, while mine were Paris, Buenos Aires, Belgrade and Havana. After that, our professional itineraries diverged, with Robin going on to scale dizzy heights at The Observer and the BBC, while I plodded along in humbler positions at ITN and elsewhere.
So when this book appeared, I was eager to read how it had all worked out for another of my generation of ‘foreign news apprentices’ who began our privileged and exciting careers with those initial awe-inspiring months at Reuters famous headquarters, 85 Fleet Street, London.
Of course, any book sub-titled ‘My Life as a Newsman’ is likely to be of interest to all other serious journalists; but this one is written in a style which, being both erudite and amusing, succeeds in educating and entertaining sufficiently to make it attractive to the general reader having no personal connection to our journalistic trade.
The book is kept constantly lively by Robin’s real-life stories from the world’s trouble-spots; revelations about the haggling among powerful men for control of The Observer; tales from the BBC into the sometimes chaotic last-minute juggling of running-orders behind the scenes at The World Tonight while he maintained a tranquil facade; insights into the physical acrobatics involved in delivering live reports from awkward place abroad; and much more.
If you want to know what it was like getting the news out before the existence of the internet, smartphones, skype and all the rest of today’s cyber-paraphernalia, this is a good book from which to find out; but you will also enjoy plenty of revealing insights into human behaviour in a wide variety of situations along the way.
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