War correspondent for The Telegraph, Oliver Poole, visited University College Falmouth this week to share his experience of being a journalist at war and explain the importance of the media’s role in it.
As a journalist for The Telegraph, Poole was an American correspondent for the 9/11 terrorist attack. He was then sent to Afghanistan at the beginning of the war as an ’embedded journalist.’
Poole travelled with a tank unit who he spent all of his time in Afghanistan with. Everything he owned was bought in Baghdad so that he could blend in with the crowd. “To be absolutely blunt, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing,” he said. “It was a chaotic start.”
As a print journalist, Poole felt at advantage to film and radio journalists as he did not need to be fully involved in the war. Instead of having to go out and film actual footage of the war going on, Poole could talk to the soldiers afterwards to receive the information he needed, but he still had to accept the risk of being in the middle of a war.
Although the news industry is in a complete state of collapse, Poole believed that the war was a ‘newspaper story’ and that it didn’t need to be completely objective as it would defeat the point. He said: “The media played a fundamental role. It was because of the power of the media that the public knew what went on.”
Poole also told Journalism students that they will learn many transferable skills on their course. He said: “Be imaginative about what you can actually do with your skills” and that it is important to find unique information that cannot be found on the internet.