Simon Reeve: My Life in Media

'I was told to track down two terrorists in Boston, and went dancing round the newsroom at the thought of a flight - but they were in Boston, Lincolnshire'

Simon Reeve, 35, is an author and broadcaster. Presenting BBC2's Equator, part-travelogue and part-current affairs programme, earned him comparisons to Michael Palin. He returns to our screens on Sunday with Tropic of Capricorn, a journey from Namibia to Australia and on to Argentina and Brazil. Reeve's first book, The New Jackals, predicted the rise of al-Qa'ida and became a New York Times bestseller. He grew up in Acton, west London, and lives with his wife Anya in north London.



What inspired you to embark on a career in the media?

I had a vague notion that journalism could be interesting, but I never thought it was an option. After leaving school I had no idea what to do in life. I went on the dole, ran a charity shop, and I was turned down for a job as a white-van driver based on Wembley Trading Estate. That was a low point. Then my dad saw an advert in The Sunday Times and somehow I landed a job.



When you were 15 years old, which newspaper did your family get, and did you read it?

We used to get The Times, largely because Mr Murdoch introduced a complicated cut-price scheme. I was equally interested in the Ealing & Acton Leader, which I delivered locally. It grabbed eyeballs with headlines of the "Slasher horseman stalks Acton Park!" variety. A clever mix of parochial shockery.



And what were your favourite TV and radio programmes?

On the TV it was anything that had even a suggestion of violence or sex. I loved Minder, partly because I'd see them filming as I walked to school. But I was also obsessed with the news, documentaries, and travel and adventure shows: anything that involved wielding a machete in a jungle. We'd have the Today programme on every morning, and that encouraged an ongoing affair with Radio 4. It's one of the many things I miss on my long journeys away.



Describe your job

I've written and edited a few books, and now I'm travelling to far-flung parts of the planet and hoping I can interest people in what happens there. It's hard when Amy Winehouse and Paris Hilton are so fascinating.



What is the first media you turn to in the morning?

Radio 4, then the BBC news homepage. I get The Independent news email every day, which is still free – thank you very much.



Do you consult any media sources during the day?

Endlessly. If I'm preparing for a trip then I have a slab of travel guides to use as reference. Otherwise I'm on the BBC website, Google and all the usual. Everyone slags off Wikipedia, but I think it's getting stronger and sharper all the time.



What is the best thing about your job?

The fact that it's less like a job and more of an education. Travelling around the Tropic of Capricorn, I was overwhelmed by new information, knowledge, smells and sights. Travelling makes up for never having gone to university.



And the worst?

I seem to work every day of the week. There's always something to do. That's the downside of being freelance.



How do you feel you influence the media?

Not a jot. But I hope the TV programmes I've been making show viewers a bit more about life in dusty corners of the planet.



What's the proudest achievement in your working life?

My first byline. It was a tiny "compiled by..." on a Sunday Times table of worst theatre reviews. My gran framed it. Close second was winning a One World Broadcasting Trust Award for Places That Don't Exist, a series I devised about unrecognised countries. The citation said it made an "outstanding contribution to greater world understanding". You can't get much better than that.



And what's your most embarrassing moment?

When my big break came I still hadn't been on a plane. I was told to track down two terrorists hiding in Boston and went dancing around the newsroom at the thought of a flight, only to be told they were in Boston in Lincolnshire.



What do you tune into at home?

At home or in the car it's Radio 4. I even podcast programmes like From Our Own Correspondent. I love watching TV while I'm abroad, particularly when I can't understand the language. I once saw an It's a Knockout competition in Saudi Arabia that gave me a whole new take on life in the kingdom. And a dubbed, pirated version of Titanic in Kyrgyzstan was better than the original.



What is your Sunday paper? And do you have a favourite magazine?

I subscribe to The Week, which I think should be compulsory reading. And I love the scoop of analysis you get from The New York Review of Books. I'm fickle when it comes to papers. If I want a doorstop I'll get The Sunday Times. Usually it's The Observer or The Independent on Sunday.



Name one career ambition you want to realise

If I make it through life without being forced to take jobs that fill me with daily dread then I'll be happy.

What would you do if you didn't work in the media?

I'm endlessly trying to spot a great business idea while I'm away, but the best ones appear to be illegal. I think I'd settle on a tree stump grinding business.



Who in the media do you most admire and why?

Adam Curtis for The Century of the Self. George Monbiot for banging on about things that matter.

The CV

1990: Joins The Sunday Times as a post-boy.

1993: Starts researching the first World Trade Center bombing.

1995: Leaves The Sunday Times and starts writing a book on new "apocalyptic" terrorists.

1998: First book, The New Jackals, is published. Later becomes a New York Times bestseller.

2000: Writes One Day in September, about the Munich Olympics massacre.

2003: First TV series, Meet the Stans, on BBC.

2005: Places That Don't Exist, BBC4.

2006: Equator, BBC2.

2008: Tropic of Capricorn begins on BBC2 at 8pm on Sunday; the accompanying book is out on Thursday.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Travel
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect