A rollercoaster of emotions in Paris

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I’m sitting in a Cuban bar in Paris, after three days of terror in France. I’m wearing the same trousers I’ve had on since Wednesday, and my boots are covered in mud from today’s reporting scene in Dammartin-en-Goële.

On Wednesday morning I went for an MRI scan in hospital in London. Three hours later I’d been dispatched to Paris by my editor, as news was unfolding of 12 people shot dead by Islamist terrorists at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. I’d packed an overnight bag…it turned out to be a longer stay than first planned.

The last three days have been stressful, exhausting, tough and extremely emotional. Having not really done much field reporting in my career so far, I’ve had little experience of immersing myself in a story to this extent and being ‘on the scene’ for so long, let alone on a news event of this global magnitude and significance.

When you’re on a roundabout in the middle of nowhere and the news desk is calling you to do live pieces, reports for various different stations and extended news features within the space of 20 minutes, and all you have is an iPhone and a rucksack with limited supplies, you can sometimes wonder whether it’s all worth it. You miss your family, your girlfriend, someone to talk to. Despite being such a fast moving situation and the adrenaline keeping you going, it can be a lonely place.

I cried when I came off air on Thursday having described the tributes left at the Charlie Hebdo office. I was devastated.

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I’m due to go home tomorrow afternoon. I’m shattered – physically and emotionally.

Despite all this, it has been an honour to report for LBC during these dark, horrific last few days for Paris and France. I have learnt a lot about myself and what I want to do with the rest of my career.

My thoughts are with the French people tonight as they can finally begin to mourn the victims of terror. I can’t wait to get home and hug my loved ones.

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8 thoughts on “A rollercoaster of emotions in Paris

  1. Roger says:

    Your reporting was absolutely fantastic and kept the LBC audience informed. You were both professional and caring in the nature and tone of the reporting. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As a fellow news desk reader I tried to imagine how I would have coped with the scale of the evolving story and the expectations of the stations back In London over the last few days. I would hope that in your situation I would have been as calm and proffesional as you. But I doubt it! Well done for an excellent few days of reporting and of course you feel emotionally affected. You wouldn’t be human without x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Vicky Etchells says:

    As an editor, you never know how people in your team are going to respond when the pressure is on. And I mean really on; when the adrenaline is pumping and they have to deliver the goods – right this second.

    On Wednesday, as news of shootings at Charlie Hebdo – a satirical magazine in Paris, whose name most of us had never heard of but will now never forget – started to trickle through, our Senior Reporter was on paternity leave, our Political Editor was locked in a briefing and our drivetime reporter was on a special investigation.

    Simon Conway’s name was the next one that came into my head.

    I booked him onto the next Eurostar out of St Pancras and called to tell him to grab his passport, toothbrush and head straight there.

    We ask a lot from our journalists. We don’t have the cast of thousands that the BBC has, or the vast resource of fixers and producers that the TV news operations enjoy. But what we do have is a team of young, bright, talented people with passion.

    Simon has been at the forefront of LBC’s coverage of the Paris attacks over the last few days. His reports have been broadcast across Global’s network of radio stations, at times reaching more than 23 million listeners.

    But Simon isn’t actually a reporter. He’s a newsreader. He does his day job from the comfort of a radio studio with the safety net of a script that he’s written. And, along with his colleagues, does a fantastic job. Being plonked in the middle of a hostage siege with explosions and gunfire going off behind him is rather out of his comfort zone. But it never crossed my mind that he would not deliver.

    I’ve been in regular contact with him over the last four days. I’ve just put the phone down after talking to him, as he wraps up in Paris. I know from our conversations he’s been excited, stressed, frustrated with his kit and touched by what he was reporting on. You’d never have known this on-air. He’s been consistent, professional, reliable and right on top of the fast moving story he was covering. Having just read this blog, I’ve learnt that on Thursday night, after he filed a very considered, measured report on the tributes left outside the Charlie Hebdo offices, he cried.

    Reporting is lonely sometimes. You’re often wet, cold and hungry. You’re away from the support of your colleagues in the newsroom. You’re not there for the banter to lift you when you’re knackered, you’ve had enough and you just want to go home. But you also get the chance to shine – and Simon has shone. Back at base, there are journalists and producers working their socks off behind the scenes who sometimes go unrecognised.

    I care passionately for my team. They are a pleasure to manage and it makes me terribly sad that Simon was so moved, and probably so exhausted, by a story that I had sent him to cover, that he wept.

    But it also confirms what we already suspected.

    That he has the makings of a fantastic reporter, who will remember that real people are at the heart of the stories he will cover. And he will tell those stories, as he has from Paris, in a way that will stay with his listeners long after they have turned off their radio.

    You’ve done yourself and your team proud, Simon Conway.

    And next time, I promise to send you somewhere warm – with more than 15 minutes notice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vicky, thank you so much for such kind words of praise. But also for all your support during my time in Paris. I look forward to my next reporting experience – hopefully in the Bahamas with a couple of days’ notice.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Simon, I am finding it difficult to express my admiration and pride in the way you have handled events of the past few days.

    You have shown professionalism beyond that of people with far greater experience than yours.

    I am sure that the experience you have gained this week will stand you in good stead for your future career. Pops.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: Why Five Live was right to drop its imaging this week | Chris Stevens

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