Thursday, 28 August 2014


"Our job as journalists is to speak truth to power, shine a light in the dark places, be a witness to history, and...stand up for those who have no voice" ~ Bill Neely

If you ask ten people who their favourite journalist of all time is, you can be sure of getting ten different answers. Some may say Kate Adie - no argument from me there - and someone else may say Marie Colvin. My husband liked Jill Dando. And my Twitter friends are fans of Ayman Mohyeldin and Richard Engel. We all have at least one journalist whom we admire and I am no exception.

I first heard Bill Neely presenting the ITV news one lunchtime in 1993. Yes, I heard him. And then I saw him. I can't remember the exact date I heard/saw him, but I do remember the half-hour that ensured my admiration for him stayed with me for the rest of my life. My Twitter name 'Neely Fan Forever' is not an exaggeration.

From being a presenter, and finally becoming the International Editor of ITV News to becoming the Chief Global Correspondent of NBC, Bill has been incredible. He has brought us news from all over the world. Some of it light-hearted: US Mega-millions and various sporting events. Some of it sad: the death of various politicians, world leaders etc. Some of it anger-inducing: Why did the security people refuse to let him in to the press conference in Sri Lanka? And some of it downright heartbreaking: his reports from war zones, earthquake zones, and other disasters. Yes, through his reports, Bill has made me laugh, cry and everything in between. And to me that is one of the talents of a great journalist.

He has won countless awards and justifiably so; too many to mention, but the fact that he helped ITV News win three (yes, you read that right. THREE!!) BAFTAs in a row is brilliant!

One thing that makes me admire him as a journalist is his compassion. Some people believe that journalism and compassion do not mix and that it can possibly be a hindrance (see my previous blog: "If You Have Tears...."). For Bill this doesn't seem to have been the case. He manages to encompass professionalism with compassion incredibly well.

Not only does he have empathy for the people in his stories, but he is conscientious about the safety of his crew too. Which is exactly the way it should be. He has said that he is driven, as are many journalists, and that he wants to beat the competition, but he will never endanger his crew to do it, which is to his absolute credit. If getting the story means putting the crew in danger then there will be no story on that day. As he says, "I am very, very careful about every yard. I will not send a cameraman where I will not go. What would I say to the widow of the cameraman to whom I'd said, 'Just take a peek around that corner'? I couldn't do it, I couldn't justify that to me or to her".

Bill also introduced me to the charity he is patron of: Cardiac Risk in the Young, affectionately known as CRY. I am very proud to support this charity and to help him support them too. Though I think running a marathon is a long way off for me yet.

On a personal note, I finally got to meet Bill and spend time with him. He is one of the kindness, most generous and humble people you could meet. He has inspired me in so many ways and I feel privileged and honoured to call him a friend. Hopefully we'll be friends for a long time to come; as I support him, he inspires me and we both support CRY.

Vin Ray once said, "He is - quite simply - one of the greatest storytellers of his generation".  He was right.

Here is Bill's interview from the day I first met him:

I will be a Neely Fan forever. however long that may be. I leave you with the proverb that Bill once quoted and that I have always remembered:


Thursday, 14 August 2014


A recent debate erupted about the role of emotion in journalism after Channel 4's Jon Snow made an emotional plea on a news bulletin for the people of Gaza (I will talk about Gaza another time. That's a whole other blog) To me this was an incredibly brave thing to do, but others disagreed. They saw his emotional appeal as propaganda. and said it wasn't exactly helping the situation. 

This however is not my point. My question is: Can journalism and emotion live in tandem with each other?

Some would say no A journalist has to be unbiased and professional and keep his emotions in check. But they forget two things. Firstly: being unbiased doesn't make you unfeeling, and if you show your emotion and compassion it doesn't mean you are using it as propaganda for anyone in particular.

And secondly how dare these people criticise those out in the field while they are stuck in an office/studio etc with no clear idea of what is going on. Seeing a report is one thing. Being in the situation as the on-scene reporter is something else entirely. The reporters out there, especially in war torn places, like Gaza, Syria, Libya and Iraq and in places where there have being disasters, such as earthquake zones, see some tragic and appalling scenes and hear some heartbreaking stories from victims and people who are there to help. And the journalists are supposed to not care?

To think like that is just ridiculous. Journalists are people, not robots. They are human beings like everyone else with the same emotions. As long as they can keep their composure on camera - something Kate Adie was a master of - then that to me is enough. If, when they are actually in the field finding their story, they are moved by the situation around them then it shouldn't be a problem.

I would rather see an emotional report from someone who obviously cares and is speaking from their heart about things that are happening than a reporter who cares only about the story and not about the people involved.

Do I think what Jon Snow did was wrong? Absolutely not. He was just showing that journalists have compassion; something he should not be ashamed of. Reporters are compassionate, brave people. They risk their lives to bring us news. We would do well to remember that, and not to be so harsh in our judgement of an emotional journalist.

Compassion in journalism is not a crime.

Bill Neely showing that compassion and journalism do go together: