My Greatest Mistake: Peter White disability correspondent for the BBC
Tuesday 22 July 2003
My mistakes focus around jumping first and thinking afterwards. At university I gave up a law degree two years into the course. It was a big decision as law is one of those very few charted careers for blind people.
What I really wanted to do, though, was to get into broadcasting; something that had no track record of blind people, so it was a complete gamble. It seemed a huge mistake for a very long time. I'd wake up occasionally, years after the decision, imagining that I was about to sit my final law exams. It is one of the few jobs where you can actually make some real money. It was 12 years before I was trusted to do a live radio broadcast; that's a bloody long time.
I left radio in the mid-Eighties to go to television, at a time when quite a few channels were beginning to do programmes for disabled people. The trouble was that I went into television thinking: "Well, I don't know how to do this, but at least they will." I found myself, having never done any real television, four months before we were supposed to have eight half-hour programmes on the air, with a producer who had no more idea than I did. I think it's probably the most frightened I've ever been. We worked about 18 hours a day for a very long period. It's total arrogance to go into an area that you don't know anything about and assume that someone else will create it for you.
Most recently, we were planning a documentary on Radio 2 on Stevie Wonder [the singer]. We went to Los Angeles with no complete certainty that we could talk to him. We pursued his team for months, and in the end we just went, thinking that the only way we were likely to get the interview was to be there in Los Angeles. We staked out his studios for four days. The morning we were due to leave, we finally got a call from him and we began the interview 40 minutes before our check-in time.
Despite the near-disasters, they haven't changed the way I operate, so I don't think that I have learnt anything from them at all. I am always doing things where I have no evidence that they will succeed, but they do tend to work out.
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