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.

Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Social Media Director (Global) - London Bridge/Southwark

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Social Media Director (Gl...

Personal and Legal Assistant – Media and Entertainment

£28,000 - £31,000: Sauce Recruitment: A Global media business based in West Lo...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice