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Getting to the Hart of the Matter with One of the World's Most Experienced ReportersTim King Salem-News.com
Alan Hart will be speaking in the U.S. and Canada from Mid May to Mid June. He is starting off in Michigan; he arrives 13 May.
(SALEM / LONDON) - One of the biggest names in the history of Mideast TV reporting, former BBC and ITN Reporter Alan Hart of London, will soon be in the U.S. on tour to share his intimate knowledge of this place where the world's cultures collide, often violently.
Alan reminds me of the rare news prodigies I have had the pleasure of knowing here in the U.S.; Mark Berryhill and Austin Reed. These are people born to tell the world a story. Similarly, Alan had dreams as a child, of reporting. The first son in a working class family to achieve a secondary education, Alan, like several of us in this game, found his higher education in “University of Life. Another name for it is Hark Knocks University, I'm sure you're heard of the place.
Alan found his path at the young age of 17, after replying an ad in The Times for a trainee tea and tobacco estate manager in Nyasaland. According to his bio, "He was off to what British media described as 'darkest' Central Africa." Nyasaland or the Nyasaland Protectorate, was a British protectorate established in 1907, when the former British Central Africa Protectorate changed its name. Today it is known as Malawi.
After being in Nyasaland for only two days, he landed a job as a trainee reporter for The Nyasaland Times, advertised for a trainee reporter. Nothing beats getting to the heart of things, Alan's first job involved little to no fluff, instead he found himself right in the middle of emerging black African nationalism; and the consequent result, white resistance to it.
It did not take one year for Alan to begin receiving assignments as a 'stringer' correspondent for all but one of Britain’s national newspapers. He was also turning reports at this point for the three main international news agencies - Reuters, Associated Press and UPI.
Alan's time in African came to an end, as his honest reporting earned the wrath of of President-in-waiting Banda. Alan was declared "persona non-grata" shortly before the end of white colonial rule, and expelled from the country, along with his wife and infant son.
This led a more experienced Alan Hart back to England, where he secured a job with the Daily Telegraph. Again, reminiscent of my two friends mentioned in the first paragraph, he was the youngest reporter ever, to have a staff job on Fleet Street. My prodigy friends in the U.S. also were on the air officially, prior to being 18-years old.
It only took a month though for Alan to figure out that this was not really what he was seeking, and he went in pursuit of that TV job that he dreamed of as a small child. So he approached Independent Television News (ITN), where be became chief foreign correspondent covering wars and conflicts. His assignments would lead him wherever the action was in the world, and like today, there was no real lack of it.
Alan was credited at ITN with pioneering the “as live” style of reporting by doing his commentaries live into the microphone as events were happening. As his bio explains, this was a style of reporting that helped ITN’s 30-minute News-at-Ten a great deal in its pioneering days, attracting and holding big audiences. During this time the ITN programs often doubled the size of those for the BBC’s main news.
Alan explains that it was in Vietnam, where he watched America spend six million dollars a minute destroying two countries in a war that could not be won, and possibly should never have been fought, that he first began to really question things, and not merely report.
This growing curiosity about the workings of the world did not slow Alan, who next nabbed a reporting job in India, with BBC’s flagship hour long current affairs program, Panorama.
As the photos attest, there were few key world leaders who didn't know and work with Alan Hart. It is a fabulous history of the biggest names of the world. Alan says that in his tv reporting days he was "Celebrated within the industry for my scoops and my special relationships with leaders on both sides of the many conflicts I covered."
He continued, "I think I must be, for example, the only person on Planet Earth who enjoyed intimate access to, and on the human level friendship with, arguably the two greatest opposites in all of human history - Golda Meir, Mother Israel, and Yasser Arafat, Father Palestine."
In pre-Likud Israel, Alan was known as “Golda’s boyfriend” for the red roses he sent. What a classy move! It shows perhaps a great deal about how things have changed in recent years with regard to reporters and their relationships. Alan brought a degree of old world civility to the table that would always be a good ingredient, for any relationship building. It paid off by making him one of the most well informed people alive.
On the Arab side, in addition to Arafat, who he wrote a book about, Alan enjoyed special relations and private conversations with Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal, and in fact he was the first Western correspondent to interview him on film. Other dignitaries interviewed by Alan over the years include Jordan’s King Hussein and Egyptian Presidents Nasser and Sadat.
In Iran, Alan knew Empress Farah, the wife of the Shah, and he talks about how he enjoyed the friendship and confidence. It was recently revealed in de-classified British government documents, and through an interview he gave to BBC Radio, that Alan assisted Farah in trying to educate her husband about what was going wrong their country, before everything turned upside down in Iran.
So how on earth do people like Alan, a boy from a working class family in England, ultimately became a friend and confident of world leaders?
Alan says there are basically two reasons, "One is that I don’t give a damn about being white and British. I’m a citizen of the world, period; a true believer in one common humanity. Empathizing with people on the human level came and comes easily to me,"
He added that the main reason was the advice given to me my ITN’s legendary editor, Geoffrey Cox, when Alan joined his reporting staff.
He said: "You’ll be engaging with prime ministers and presidents, kings and queens. Never forget that leaders are the most lonely people in the world because they are surrounded by sycophants who only tell them what they want to hear. They, leaders, are crying out for honest conversation."
"I became a visitor with whom leaders could have honest conversations in private, said Alan".
However sadly, it was the media’s superficiality and refusal to come to grips with some of the major issues of our time, that frustrated Alan. Soon he established his own independent production company. Relying on the strength of his international reputation at the time, he raised £1 million in sterling, "A lot in 1973", Alan adds. There was international development agency and government funding to some extent; he used it to make, "The only documentary on the full and true reality of everyday global poverty and its implications for all."
The result was the two-hour film titled "FIVE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT", had its world premiere, hosted by Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, at the formal opening of the 7th Special session of the UN General Assembly.
This is the assembly that was called to discuss the need for a New World Economic Order. the film was screened on television in most countries of the North; was a version was also made for schools in many countries. It truly became a standard work of reference in many circles.
According to his bio, "Alan is a fiercely independent thinker. He hates all labels and isms and has never been a member of any political party or group. He prefers to judge issues on their merits."
Today, Alan is an author who writes about the Middle East. Look for our reports about his U.S. tour.
Learn more about Alan: AlanHart.com
Purchase his books: claritypress.com/
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.
Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. You can send Tim an email at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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