No more heroes… Or how it feels to speak to a living legend of journalism

“Don’t meet your heroes, they’ll only disappoint,” they say.

How many of us, given the opportunity, would say no to an actual conversation with a person who inspired them?

I interviewed the BBC world affairs editor John Simpson many years ago and it was one of the most nerve-wrecking and fulfilling moments of my career.

I was frightened and babbled, and he was charming and pretended not to notice, thanking me profusely for my time before speeding off the catch a plane to Baghdad (this is entirely true).

When it came to speaking to Kate Adie, I could barely stop shaking long enough to dial her number on the office phone.

An incredible intelligence and fiercely inquiring reporting style meant that she was second to none throughout her BBC career, reporting from outposts including Tripoli, Tiananmen Square during the protests, the Gulf during the 1990s war, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. adie

As a child watching the BBC News, she was the gravity and realism of war in our front room, and I was smitten when I realised a woman was just as capable as a man – in this case, Adie matched Simpson in my small mind.

The interview I conducted was in support of her book Fighting on the Home Front: The Legacy of Women in World War One, as she was appearing at Monmouth Women’s Festival which was scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Her research was impeccable, her writing engaging and her interview manner – positively terrifying. I quickly realised that she wasn’t going to accept any ‘umms’ and ‘aaahs’, and made sure I had a raft of interesting questions ready for her to answer.

Coming off the phone, I only hoped I had made a good impression, because I certainly won’t forget the red letter day I spoke to one of my heroes.

Read the piece here


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