Memoir of journalist and television presenter, Jon Snow…
British television’s Channel 4 news programme is headed by Jon Snow, a formidable journalist and presenter known for his unapologetic line of questioning and intelligent understanding of current affairs. He possesses that rare commodity in a presenter, the understanding of the history that goes with modern-day current affairs.
I mention the importance of history because without a basic understanding of what has gone before one cannot hope to grasp the beliefs, the politics and the nuances of argument that inevitably go hand in hand with global news stories. As newsmen go, Jon Snow cut his journalistic teeth in some of the most troubled times of the last forty-five years and this fascinating memoir gives the reader a revealing insight into a man paid to show absolute impartiality in his work. Not easy for someone who, to this day cannot and will not shake off his anti-establishment inner self. His choice of garish socks and ties give some of it away, one not inclined to suffer fools he developed a thick skin working in the thick of apartheid, Uganda under Idi Amin, El Salvador, Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, the Iran-Iraq war, Berlin and Moscow. A career map of our most troubled times.
Snow is one of the very few journalists ‘off the telly’ who can deliver a credible autobiography, I reserve little time for those paid to present the news attempting to be the news but Snow, like John Simpson, Jeremy Bowen and Harold Evans whose accounts I have also read, occupy a narrow gap on any self-respecting book-lovers shelf. Like those I mention, his memoir is rich in travel, incident and intriguing glimpses into foreign diplomacy, one moment waiting to interview Reagan ( a disaster, he reveals) the next: “The stench of tear gas, the nausea, and my streaming, scorched eyes came courtesy of an unconventional welcome in Spain” You get the idea.
In Washington he feels he has, at last, made it: “I had been a British-based journalist for more than a decade and never put so much as a toe over the threshold of Number Ten Downing Street. Yet after just two days in Washington I was standing in the White House rose garden, less than ten yards from the President of the United States. In one leap I had been transported from the British gutter-where most journalists, whether tabloid or quality, were left to fester-to the American Establishment” We are given a ‘PS’ addition at the end of the book, an interview by Louise Tucker designed to etch out the ‘personal stuff’ men of his generation seldom volunteer. They just about get away with that bit, it smacks of imposed narcissism by the publisher but it’s what the people want, one imagines.
One cannot help but feel a sense of envy for a life well lived, he has met and interviewed many of the twentieth century’s great men and women. Reading his accounts gives the reader an understanding of the man and how the events he witnessed shaped him and his own personal politics. It is a diary few can write but one which many wish they could.
Categories: Reportage, The Reading Room
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