My Mentor: John Kampfner on Nigel Wade
'I finally got through and said "Hello, Nigel". He replied: "Get to the point"'
Monday 12 June 2006
I met the infamous Nigel Wade in Moscow in 1985. He was The Daily Telegraph's foreign correspondent there and I was a young, post-trainee at Reuters. Moscow was a mad place - it was the period of Chernobyl and Soviet spy swaps - and foreign correspondents would fraternise a lot in late-night boozy sessions.
Five years later, Nigel recruited me to The Daily Telegraph, initially as a roving Eastern Europe correspondent. This was the year of the revolutions and I happened to be in Berlin on the day that the wall came down. We agreed that I should stay permanently and set up a bureau there. I stayed until unification in 1990 and then Nigel sent me to the Soviet Union. It was the most exhilarating journalistic experience you can possibly imagine.
I remember lots of wonderful Nigel experiences. After three hours in a post office in Siberia, I finally got my call through to the office. My opening words were, "Hello, Nigel, how are you?" He replied: "Get to the point."
I also remember sending in some copy with a line on the top saying: "Please don't delete the seventh paragraph, it's very important." To which he then sent me a very brusque telex saying: "If it were so bloody important why was it the seventh paragraph?"
There were many times when he left me an absolute gibbering wreck. He had a notoriously short temper and he used to rail against people who missed stories or deadlines. It was a white-knuckle ride.
But for all his brusqueness there was an investment of time and energy. I was 26 when I was in Berlin and 28 in Moscow. I was very young to be given splash after splash and I'm sure that my rawness and youth came through in some of the copy. It would have been an easy thing for him to send somebody who had far more experience.
John Kampfner is the editor of the New Statesman. Nigel Wade is a former foreign editor of The Daily Telegraph
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