Alex Crawford – Q&A

Images of Alex Crawford

Alex Crawford; at least to my face

43 years old

Where are you from?
I was brought up in Africa. Lived through two coups in Nigeria as a child, then onto Zambia. Went to school in Zambia where I lived in the copper mining town of Kitwe and was taught Bemba. Went onto (as was then) Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) where we had school lessons in terrorist drill as well as fire drill. The country was going through a civil war at the time and the borders were closed to all except school children crossing over from Zambia. Came to England (Lancashire) when I was sixteen and did my O levels and A levels in Kent. Got a trainee place with Thomson Regional Newspapers and they sent me to college in Newcastle where I did a three year newspaper training course. I did my newspaper work experience on the South African Rand Daily Mail based in Johannesburg and got my first newspaper job in the south of England with the auspicious Times newspaper, Wokingham Times, that is.

How did you get started in broadcasting?
Got taken on by the BBC Training scheme and did my radio training at BBC Radio Nottingham covering the national miners strike (Nottingham NUM broke away from the national body and thus sparked off the big miners union split which led to the disintegration of the NUM and the end of the strike – and ultimately the closure of the majority of the mines in Britain. I moved down to London and worked at BBC Broadcasting House contributing to Radio One Newsbeat, Radio Four Today programme, The World this Weekend, The World Tonight. Got taken on and trained by BBC TV at Television Centre and then worked as a sub-editor on the One o’clock News and on the first hourly news bulletins as well the Six o’clock news with Sue Lawley and the Nine o’clock news with Michael Buerk Joined TV-am – the now defunct independent breakfast channel – for a year and was sent to their Washington bureau. Joined Sky at its launch in 1989 as producer. Switched to reporting within six months and have covered the following positions since then: news reporter, Political correspondent; Business correspondent, News correspondent and now Asia correspondent based in Delhi, India.

Best news stories?
I have done four tours of Iraq since the Us-led invasion – sleeping on the roof of Saddam’s presidential palace in Basrah for two weeks; covered the Us-led invasion of Afghanistan; been tear-gassed with rioting French farmers protesting over EU subsidies; been water-cannoned and had Molotov cocktails thrown at me and my cameraman while covering the International Monetary Fund meeting in Prague; climbed a 900 foot mountain drop with earthquake victims in Kashmir; reported ont eh first democratic elections in South Africa in 1992 including the bombing of ANC offices in Johannesburg. I covered the Omagh bombing by the IRA which killed a school bus full of children – and more recently for Channel Five News reported on the Tsuami (the first report o ChFive when hey relaunched using the Sky News service) the New Orleans hurricane including an exclusive report of one woman’s eviction at the hands of rough Californian police which earned me a Bronze medal at this year’s New York film festival.

Why News broadcasting?
It’s the only place to be if you are a nosey so-and-so and an adrenalin junkie. Sky is the ultimate news workaholics home. You can work all day and all night and get immense satisfaction of seeing your pieces broadcast around the world reaching an enormous audience.

Where else would have viewers seen or heard you before?
Lord knows. I spent the past year on Channel Five news when Sky secured the contract. The news service regularly gets two million viewers a night and a lot of people where I used to live (in Windsor) suddenly started saying they had seen me on the evening news. I think they were Home and Away fans (the news follows it). Also appeared on It’ll be Alright on the Night where they regularly used to show me humiliating myself by asking the Tesco chairman Terry Leahy whether he liked ‘being on top’ followed by naughty school girl cackles….they seemed to think this double entendre worth inflicting on the people of Britain regularly.

What is your Best on-air moment?
Reporting on the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1992 where there were literally miles and miles of people waiting to vote for the first time – and crying when they were able to.

What is your Worst on-air moment?
Plenty of those – ‘Doorstepping’ both James and Rupert Murdoch (separately) at the entrance of Athena Court on James’ first day as Chief Executive and asking them such searching questions as; Do you think your appointment was nepotism/ Are you qualified for the job? – and of Rupert; What assurance can you give to the City that your son WILL be able to do the job?’ Not sure it was a brilliant career move – but showed the rest of the industry Sky News was/ is pretty independent.

What would you like to do before your career ends?
Break a real ground-breaking story in the style of the Nixon Watergate scandal – but then doesn’t every journalist? I’d settle for acceptance and respect from my peers and colleagues in the absence of the above.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I try to remember my children’s names – all four of them….a recurrent problem for journalists who are also parents. I have done parachute jumping; skiing, scuba diving, played for Nottingham Forest Womens Football team and a netball team in Windsor. Now trying hard to get the work-life balance right in India

What advice would you give to anyone that would like to get into the broadcasting world?
Even when you think you can’t be rejected any more, keep going, for two reasons: if you are good enough, you WILL make it and if the job is good, its worth fighting for. Never give up And most importantly, always make sure you have honest friends who will rein you in when you eed it and bolster your confidence when you need that too..

A big thanks to Alex for taking part.

Posted by Johnnie Larkin on Thursday 21 May 2009
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