She trended worldwide on Twitter last Sunday. Alex Crawford of Sky News was one of the first three journalists-all women-entering Green Square Tripoli with the Libyan rebels. She simply broadcast live to Sky and the World from the back of a pick up truck ‘the most exhilarating moment for all of us’ she called it Her explanation of that coup? ‘Right people, right place, right time’ . It was stunning stuff to watch and exhilarating for her ‘An incredible ten days’ in a journalistic life that has been already pretty action packed.
Crawford has won the uber prestigious Royal Television Society Reporter of the Year award three times already. A record. That will be broken when she wins it again next February for this stunning piece of reporting. Her Sunday had started in Zawiyah to the west but ended in Green Square Tripoli thanks to luck, judgment, courage and contacts developed during a siege in the town five months before when Crawford had been besieged in mosque. ’I was getting ready for death’ she recalled.
This is a woman born to be on the frontline. She understands the risks but also the responsibilities .She also see the pressing need for professional journalists to report even in a world of Twitter and Facebook. ’I feel really privileged to do this job.We make a difference-it’s what we do We bear witness to what is going on..it adds credibility having journalists’ boots on the ground’
Working with a team you can trust is all important. Alex spoke to a distinguished audience at the Edinburgh International TV Festival last Saturday and there made a point of introducing her three man team to camera Her live footage of rebel forces entering Tripoli last Sunday night came about because Crawford, her camera operators Garwen McLuckie and Jim Foster, and her producer Andy Marsh decided to be brave and go with the rebels on a dangerous, possibly fatal journey to Tripoli. It ended in triumph for them and for her.
Crawford fought her Sky bosses to be reporting from the frontline. She wants to be a firefighter on the world stage walking towards trouble rather than away from it. Yet she is also a mother to four children, son Nat, and three daughters, Frankie, Maddie and Florence who live with her husband Richard Edmondson, a racing journalist who, left his job at the Independent to help look after their children at their South African base.
Combining the two is not always easy. Her family were not overjoyed when she decided to become a foreign corr. ’I had own doubts. My family did too. I wanted it more than their doubts’ she admitted. And they still sometimes express their wish to have her at home ‘Quite often my children don’t want me to go away. My husband tries to shield them from what I am doing. It’s a dilemma for many single working mothers. I hope I’m a role model for my daughters, although my children say ‘Why can’t you be a dinner lady at school..’
Having broken through the glass ceiling and domestic doubts, she still faces professional prejudice. She told her Edinburgh audience she found it . “really insulting and very, very sexist” to be asked about how she raised her children – when her Sky News colleague Stuart Ramsay, a father of three, would not face similar questions. “Nobody will say to him – what are you doing?” she added.
She does though think her gender is of some consequence ‘I don’t think of myself as a female reporter,just a reporter’” but it does offer an alternative perspective ’I think as a woman you bring a different view to the whole thing … a woman who’s been through the same experiences even if it’s giving birth, that gives you an empathy.’
But with a husband who has given up his journalistic career for hers, she is ever ready to walk toward the fires and firing. For her noble craft ’The role of foreign correspondent to be there when things happen’ is her simple credo. Her determination and professionalism is what wins awards. Back to that siege in Zawiyah in March ‘I remember feeling that we had to get the news out, we had to show people what was happening, and if we were going to die we should let everyone know that this is what happened.” ? Yet she is not reckless ‘Do Ifeel gung-ho? A lot of the time I feel scared’ she confessed.
Three RTS awards and more under her belt, ’Crawfie’ as she is affectionately known to her colleagues is on the road to Tripoli and to many more gongs ‘I feel like I’ve just started, I’ve only been doing this for six years.’
John Mair is one of the Editors of MIRAGE IN THE DERST:REPORTING THE ARAB SPRING to be published by Arima on October 28th.It is hoped that Alex Crawford will be among the thirty contributors to that. John judged the RTS Reporter of the Year Award for 2010 which Crawford won.