The Golden Age of Journalism

John Simpson: Not Quite World’s End

 

Skegness Restaurant (copyright Chris Watson, 2011)

When I encountered this book in a Skegness charity shop for £1.50, it was meant to be a convenient companion for requisite tea-cakes and tea which inevitably accompany an hour of Christmas Eve photography on the bleak seaside coastline. By the time I had stretched my tea to a passable 40 minutes, it was clear that unless I took some immediate action, the book was going to cost me a few hours in refreshments and eventual tips. It is rare that I have put something down with such reluctance … being an English student, books soon become something to be digested, spat out and some juicy morsels picked out of the mess to support something equally as repulsive. Yet this particular mouthful of writing proved to be particularly agreeable, within the first couple of lines.

What makes this so readable is the easy style and anecdotal structure with which John Simpson uses to illustrate his points. Assuming that the reader will have a relatively informed knowledge of such events as 9/11, the war in Iraq and various conflicts over the last twenty years, his rhetoric focuses on the intricacies of the countries he visited, with his own insight and thoughts providing an enjoyable first-hand air to the proceedings. What makes him such a valuable contributor to the BBC’s treasured standard of journalism is continually enlarged on throughout the book. With the ongoing Leveson inquiry unearthing unpleasant facts about many of our national newspapers, it is an account by a journalist who has risked his life, with injuries included, in order to gain real depth to an issue in Iraq or Serbia. In the same way, the perception of the modern reader to such events at Saddam Hussein’s trial and the election of George Bush in 2000 will change as the author puts across the same view he has held throughout the years, but without being modified by the BBC’s editorial, production and management team.

Name dropping, all too common amongst those wishing to sell large numbers of their autobiographical attempts, is modestly present, as opposed to forcibly thrust into the limelight. Of necessity, the ‘no names, no pack drill’ is a feature that every journalist with worthwhile sources to protect will employ. However, it is even more satisfying that this book deals more with the everyday citizens of countries, individual members of armed forces and camera crew teams than with BBC bosses, senior royals and company CEO’s.

Not Quite World’s End will disappoint devout followers and surprise staunch opponents of the British Broadcasting Corporation simultaneously, whilst informing the reader of events from a perspective that is unassuming, placid but with a bite of steel behind the easy going exterior.

For anyone wishing to follow a journalistic path, this is not a doctrine that should be followed. But you could do worse. If I were a mathematician, I’d attach a nominal score. As I’m student of English, I will say this instead.

  It’s a bloody good read.

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About the author

Christopher M. Watson

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Chris read English Literature and Language at Winchester, and is currently a Recruitment Consultant in Brighton. Previous publication experience includes co-founding and editing the University newspaper from 2009, and as Foreign Affairs Editor for the Evans Review in 2012.