At the beginning of summer the now director of the IPI, Alison Bethel McKenzie contacted me through LinkedIn to ask me if I would be interested in co-authoring the institute’s 60th anniversary commemorative coffee-table book.
The answer was very emphatically ‘yes’.
So I researched and e-mailed and chased information about 20 press freedom fighters, all of whom have sacrificed their lives, careers or freedom to fight for honesty, truth and transparency in their country’s media.
Writing about these people was humbling enough, but I’d never really considered that meeting them would be a reality.
I’d lost myself in their stories for six fairly sleep-deprived weeks. When I received an e-mail from Jiri Dienstbier – the first vice president of the Czech Republic – I was grinning for hours.
When Sir Harold Evans returned his edit of the biography I had written of him, I was beyond delighted: how many of us have the former editor-in-chief of The Sunday Times edit our writing? What an amazing lesson!
Reading the horrifying events Nizar Nayouf added to his biography was beyond moving, as was seeing the photographs sent by family members of deceased freedom fighters.
Daoud Kuttab shared so much about his fascinating life and career that trying to squeeze it into 800 words was nigh-on impossible.
I was thrilled when Alison asked if I’d like to volunteer at the Congress and to be a part of the Awards Ceremony when the IPI would give ‘my’ book to those who filled its pages.
And what wonderful people they all are ‘in real life’. Wow.
It felt like a class reunion to me, having spent so much time with their stories, although of course I’m not even close to being in their class. It was an honour, a privilege and a delight to meet them.
The Congress itself was great to be involved in. I volunteered to run the mics during the panel discussions, so I heard all of the discussions and got a revealing insight into the world of international journalism. How exciting for a lay(wo)man to hear about the challenges that the industry is currently scaling and how approaches to those challenges differ from country to country. Have a look at the video and see if you can spot me frantically taking notes 🙂
I woke up this morning with the image in my head of the cover of a book I read when I was a teenager: The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier.
(title courtesy of my Grandad Mawdsley, used whenever he didn’t like the direction of conversation, or simply couldn’t hear it!)
Would you believe it? Forty years’ worth of fledglings have delighted in the highs and delights of Jim Henson’s colourful, exciting characters teaching something that had previously been mind-numbingly boring and remarkably repetitive.
Wasn’t it easy at school? You wrote a first draft, your teacher corrected it and told you how to make it better and that was that — you got a good grade, (or you didn’t!) but ultimately it didn’t really matter … not in the great scheme of things.