'Go forth and get a story, we were told'

Earlier this year I went to war. I was one of three postgraduate students from Westminster University whose job it was to cover a simulated war played out between 19 Nato nations in northern Denmark.

Loyal Mariner 2005 took place in April and it included various war scenarios such as hostage-taking and terrorism. It was the first time Nato had allowed student journalists to take part in such an event.

We were based on land and at sea, moving around by fast boats and helicopters over a two-week period. We fed back reports by satellite, which were produced as daily TV news bulletins by Westminster students on the Harrow campus and screened at Nato headquarters. In a real Nato situation, Royal Naval personnel would be mobbed by reporters, so they need to know what to do when there is a mic in their face. It was an astonishing opportunity for us and we had a ridiculous degree of access, which you wouldn't have in a real situation. In the second week I was on a Spanish ship, which was acting as the command ship, and while the officers started out quite suspicious, they then became more open and allowed us into briefings.

There are two tracks on my course and I chose broadcasting. I've always wanted to be a journalist, ever since high school in Colorado when I tried to start a school newspaper, and I've always had a lot of affection for pictures. I took stills while at high school and I bought more equipment as I learnt more. While in AmeriCorps, a sort of domestic Peace Corps, I put together a promotional documentary. There I was, with a rented camera and a $500 desktop computer, with no video camera experience and no editing experience, yet I could create a 45-minute documentary. It's the flexibility that technology gives you, the ability to do really cool things. I thought, "Holy smokes, this technology is here and I can get out there and make things."

I chose Westminster because I was interested in an international course. In the States things are pretty inward looking and I wanted a broader, more global perspective.

The course began with a basic introduction to television broadcasting. We were sent out with a camera and a mic and told, "Go forth and get a story." I went out in a three-person team: I was the producer, and there was a cameraperson and a reporter, and we covered the Stop the War demonstration in London. It took us a day to get the story and a couple of days to edit it and we ended up with two minutes and 30 seconds. We've become much more streamlined now. These days when I spot things on TV I don't think, "What an interesting story", I think, "What an interesting edit."

Email: Caitlind1@aol.com