`There i was on the streets of Paris covering one of the great modern revolutions. I could have stayed in the office but i was always out there, so I knew i wanted to be a news reporter'

I did a social science course at St Andrew's University, and in my final year - 1967 - I still didn't know what I was going to do with myself. But I had two passions - for the news, and for speaking foreign languages. I put the two together and thought, "It's got to be journalism."

I applied to Reuters, Scottish TV and the BBC trainee scheme. The BBC turned me down fairly quickly, and STV turned me down after an interview, but Reuters sent me a little test through the mail to do. It was a sheet of A4 with about 20 or 30 sentences on it, describing a fire on Oxford Street, and the sentences were repetitive, badly written, and inaccurate. I had to turn it into a 250-word news story.

I knocked it off in about five minutes, but when I discussed it with a couple of friends, they had their doubts about what I'd written. But I knew I'd got it right, and sent it off, and after calling me for interview, Reuters gave me a job as a graduate trainee. Ten of us got in out of 2,000 applicants. I was in the main newsroom, and worked on the Middle Eastern desk, then the Africa desk and then the World desk.

The following year, I got a posting to Paris at the time of les evenements. There I was on the streets of Paris, covering one of the great modern revolutions - out at the sharp end only having been in journalism for a year. I was always out there with the TV camera crews - though I could easily have stayed back in the office - and it was then that I knew what I really wanted to do was to be a TV news reporter.

So I left Reuters and applied to BBC TV news, getting in as a writer. When I'd been there for a while, I asked to be a reporter, but they said no, and after a year and a half I applied to ITN, where the structure seemed much less rigid. Again, I went in as a writer, in the summer of 1972, but when I told them I wanted to be a reporter, they said no, too. I gave up trying in the end, but when I'd been there three years, word suddenly went round that they were going to appoint a reporter. I applied, and did a studio camera test thinking I stood no chance, but I got the job and for the next 10 years did what I'd always wanted to do - globetrotting, being a "fireman".

Iran was my first really big story - I covered the revolution after the Shah fled, and I flew in to Tehran with Ayatollah Khomeini, who had been in exile in Paris. Tehran was a really happy place to be at that point - it was a joyous revolution - but six months later, the American hostages were taken at the embassy, and I was back again, this time in an Islamic fundamentalist nation.

The other really big one was Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion, and I got into Afghanistan five times to report on it, three times with me and my crew dressed as mujahedin and having to come in over the mountains from Pakistan. It was very exciting, Boys' Own stuff, though we nearly got killed on a number of occasions, and, looking back, I did some very foolish things. Once, in Kabul, I got my crew and myself put in front of a wall after we were captured filming - and we thought we were in front of a firing squad.

The last major story I did was the Philippines revolution, when Ferdinand Marcos was defeated by Cory Aquino, and I got a Royal Television Society gong for that. I was pleased about that, because not long after, in 1987, ITN took me off the road and made me a newscaster. They were making an international nightly half-hour news bulletin for the new Superchannel, which was just launching, and because it would go out to 16 countries across Europe, they wanted a presenter who spoke to clear English without a regional accent and who could pronounce foreign names.

In the first few years after I stopped being a reporter, I began to wish I was still "out there" - during the Gulf war, for instance. My one regret in my reporting career at ITN was that I was Washington correspondent at the time of the Falklands War, and so was covering the diplomatic end of it in the US when all I really wanted to do was be aboard a British warship in the South Atlantic. But newscasting is exciting too: it's live television, and you get a similar adrenaline rush every single time you hear the countdown through your earpiece. And there are no bullets flying around, and I know what time I'm going to get home at night. I miss reporting, but with a smile on my face.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Professional Sales Trainee - B2B

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: First things first - for the av...

Recruitment Genius: Account Executive - Graduate / Entry Level

£22000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital advertising infras...

Guru Careers: PR Account Director / SAM

£50 - 60k (DOE) + Benefits & Bonus: Guru Careers: A PR Account Director / SAM ...

Guru Careers: Research Analyst / Business Insight Analyst

£32 - £37K + extensive benefits: Guru Careers: Research Analyst / Business Ins...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?