More thrills than skills – A half-life in Journalism, part 12

Over the next few weeks, is to publish, each weekday, edited extracts from the memoirs of Scottish war correspondent, Paul Harris. ‘More thrills than skills: A half-life in journalism’, is being scheduled for publication next year.

WAR had come suddenly and largely unexpectedly to this part of the Balkans. Few of us were experts at that time, but journalists, who may be obliged to travel in any one year to half a dozen or more war zones, learn fast.

There is a certain familiarisation pattern based around press centres, accreditation, bars, hotels and restaurants. The first journalists to appear in a new war zone generally set the pace, or the standards, depending on how you look at it, and identify the most amenable places to gather.

In Zagreb, an up-and-coming European capital, there was a good deal of choice in the matter but the Intercontinental Hotel, by virtue of its hosting the International Press Centre, was very much the centre of events in those early days.

The pressmen planned their days at the front or, for those with possibly more sense, at the twice-daily press conferences and in the bar.

There tended to be a bizarre holiday atmosphere as guides and interpreters were arranged.