by Jack Stanners, 2nd year student, BA Multimedia Journalism
The BAFTA Scotland Masterclass: Reporting from the Front Line with Allan Little provided a unique insight into the amazing prospects a career in journalism can bring.
Little very recently ended his long and eventful career at the BBC, having worked as a distinguished foreign correspondent all over the globe, covering events such as the first Gulf War, the breakup of Yugoslavia, and the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide.
The Masterclass began with Little’s reflection on how his career progressed, from starting out as a researcher for BBC Scotland, he worked his way up the ranks towards his goal of becoming a foreign correspondent – a goal he claims he had ever since University. Little outlined how difficult his early career had been at times, struggling to get used to being stuck in the office day after day as a researcher.
Once he had reached his goal, however, Little’s extraordinary career took him around the world, reporting on some of the most important conflicts of modern times. When he spoke about past experiences in Baghdad, Kuwait, Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Moscow to name but a few of the places he’s ventured, Little reflected on witnessing both the horrors of conflict, and the inspiring sight of people pulling together to make it through some of the greatest struggles in their lives. He spoke with an awe struck tone to his voice – as if he relives the moments as he looks back on them.
At one point a member of the audience asked a question which all young and upcoming journalism students are still working out for themselves: “What’s the purpose of journalism?” After taking a moment, Little replies that when he was younger, he believed the purpose of journalism was to make a difference in the world – which he grins at, and goes on to say that that belief turned out to be entirely untrue:
“When I was out there I always believed that what I was doing would make a difference…that all I had to do was point something out to people, an injustice, and then it would be taken care of. That’s simply not the case. I admire that belief in young journalists that I meet… But I’ve found that the purpose of journalism is to find the truth, to be able to say that even though one side says this, and the other side says that, I was there. I know the truth. I know what actually happened.”
Little worked during a period when journalism was booming; when news organisations had enough money to send correspondents around the globe “just in-case” a story breaks out. Today that may not be the case, in a time of tight budgets and an increasing danger for journalists working abroad – particularly in conflict zones (as I write this another journalist has just been executed by the so called Islamic State). Yet, there are still opportunities in journalism for those determined enough to succeed, and the ever changing landscape of the media and journalism could in fact open up a whole new world of opportunities in the future for those just starting out.