More Thrills than Skills – A Half-life in Journalism, Part 96

Over the next few weeks, is to publish, each weekday, 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.

From my room at the front of the GFH with its cracked panes, I could watch, as night fell, the smoke still rising into the sky. No time for a beer this evening. For me it would be a hectic evening and, indeed, right through the night I would be on the phone or at the computer.

Fortuitously for journalists working in South Asia, the clock is eight hours ahead of Britain which gives plenty of time to gather news and then to file it during the evening hours.

The deputy editor of The Scotsman, Fred Bridgland, urged me over the phone: “Give it all you’ve got, Paul. Bags of colour.” It was next day’s page one splash.

Every three hours, I did a live interview with the Sky News centre and they ran my voice over the powerful images which had come out of Colombo that day. In between, I did interviews for BBC Radio Scotland’s news programmes.

This went on for three days, finishing with features for the Sunday papers. I worked hard on the writing, telephoning, visits to the hospitals, press conferences and all the other things which mark a ‘breaking story': I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be on top of an international story with virtually no other competing journalists about.