More thrills than skills – A half-life in journalism, part 51

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.

WHEN a promising little war breaks out in some far-flung part of the world, there will always be certain types of hotel guest for the establishment that keeps open its doors.

With the package tourists and businessmen gone, there are now four quite distinct types of guest. There are journalists, aid workers, spooks and ‘war tourists’.

That the journos and the aid workers should be there goes without saying, although not all journos are as dedicated to their craft as they might be.

Writing of the Commodore Hotel in Beirut during the 1980s, correspondent, Robert Fisk, referred to “a breed of journalistic lounge lizard, reporters who rarely left the building – or the downstairs bar”.

The Commodore is probably best remembered for the resident parrot, Coco, whose convincing imitations of gunfire and incoming shells would more often than not cause guests to dive for cover. It was rebuilt after its 1987 trashing by Druze and Palestinian gunmen.

But Coco fled and was never found, despite a British journalist’s generous offer of a $500 reward.